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Ophelia : Sympathize With Your Phantasy

Fans of 'A Sombre Dance' may wish to investigate this singularly obscure and individual 2010 album.

I'm guessing that, few - if any - people would come up with Ophelia as any kind of a first choice of reference for anything. For a start, with one single album to their name, released in 2010, and hardly circulated anywhere outside their South Korean home, there's very little actual material to call to mind. And given that even that single release was given a confusing range of translations from the original 당신의 환상을 동정하라, ranging from 'Sympathize With Your Phantasy' (often misspelt as 'Symphatize...') to 'Do Sympathy With Your Fantasy', even if you were looking for it, finding a copy is a whole different ballgame. You can even compound that with the fact that the Korean-printed and -sung lyrics won't help you follow the album in the slightest. And, to be honest, you'd struggle to really conclusively call it Doom, of any shade. So, at this point, you may already be wondering why I'm here, on doom-metal.com, telling you anything about it all.

Well, it's mainly because I can. And I think I should, under our general banner of supporting underground endeavours of interest. About a year ago, I did some work with Russian band Shadow Suite, who were determined to create the first ever live performance of Estatic Fear's classic 'Somnium Obmutem'. In the event, they did a fine job of realising that ambition, and along the way it took me into a world of bands who have bubbled under - largely unseen and unheralded - into that blend of doomy, atmospheric, classically-influenced melancholy which owes a debt to the complexities and innovations of the Austrian band.

Ophelia were one of the names that came up during that period of discussion, and it has since been my great pleasure to speak with band founder Kyung 'Bluemirror', and even obtain an original copy of the album - released on the vanished and discredited Jusin Productions label, who shut up shop and went AWOL shortly after its release. And, honestly, it rocks: not necessarily in a purist Metal sense, but in the way that high-quality music can reach out across so many cultural and artificially genre-based barriers, and simply touch the soul, heart, mind - call it what you will, it doesn't really matter, but this hidden gem from the far side of the world calls to the same part of me that identifies with so much of the Euro- or US-centric established scenes.

Technically, there are a number of elements within the sound that can be traced back to '70s Prog rock - a touch of Camel in the keyboards, sections that echo Steve Hackett's guitar work with Genesis, the orchestral, classical and even folksy crossovers of bands like Carmen and Jethro Tull. However, for more meaningful comparisons, Ophelia come closer to the re-use of those elements during the '90s, by bands like Decoryah, Devil Doll and 3rd And The Mortal, plus the aforementioned Estatic Fear. Although the female vocals also invite a mention of Theatre Of Tragedy, that's really only because of their startling similarity to Liv Kristine's sweetly breathy delivery, musically, the overlap is limited to a few 'Velvet Darkness...'-style moments.

From the above, and with a lot of the heavy lifting carried by symphonic and piano-style keys, it's quite easy to get the immediate impression that this is a comparatively light and delicate work. Which, in places, it is, particularly in the briefer acoustic interludes. But there is also a general undercurrent of darkness within it, a contrast befitting the theme of the passing months and seasons. Satisfyingly crunching guitars, turbulent, aggressive keyboard passages, and sparingly-used male growls all place those darker moments to the fore, as exmplified by tracks such as 'Chant Of The Night' and 'Same Moment, Different Dream'.

Well, the bottom line is that's a long (80 minutes) and genuinely eclectic album, covering plenty of ground, commendably without losing focus or continuity. It most certainly isn't something for the riff purists, or those looking for a fix of chest-crushing heaviness, but, nonetheless, if you can appreciate a subtler gloom and misery and prefer 'A Sombre Dance' over 'Somnium Obmutem', then you may find this singularly obscure and individual work to be well worth investigating.

To borrow an example from the world of fiction, I'm reminded of Swede Björn Nyberg, who was so impressed by RE Howard's writings that he set out to pay homage with the full-length novel 'The Return Of Conan' - written in a foreign tongue to him - and succeeded so well it was incorporated into the official canon. It wasn't the master's original work, but it carried on the same spirit, and inspired numerous other writers to follow suit. Musically, Ophelia sit in a similar position, bridging a vast gap in language, culture and distance to continue Estatic Fear's pioneering through to the continuing influence they have on more contemporary bands such as Angellore or As Autumn Calls. 'Sympathize With Your Phantasy' earns my respect for achieving that, as well as for its difficult and lengthy birthing in about as underground an environment as you could hope to find. Perhaps it'll earn yours in the same fashion. Perhaps not - I'm aware of its limitations in a Doom context, but at least you now know that it exists.

Editor's Note: I wouldn't normally include video in a review, but given the band website statement "CD albums are currently sold out. The musics are only available in Korean streaming sites below and various unofficial channels (e.g., Youtube, torrents). We ask your pardon for such inconvenience", it seems appropriate to share one of the few accessible full streams here:

Click HERE to discuss this review on the doom-metal forum.

Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. January - Dream Within A Dream
2. February - Mirror Lake
3. March - Spring
4. April - Objet Petit A
5. May - Water Deep
6. June - Chant Of The Night
7. July - Floating, And Drowning
8. August - Mist Forest
9. September - Ophelia
10. October - Calm
11. November - Same Moment, Different Dream
12. December - A Wish To Remember
13. New January - Communis

Duration : Approx. 80 minutes

Visit the Ophelia bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-03-19 by Mike Liassides
Aesthetic Death
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