On their debut album, The Fall of Omnius, France's Nephren-Ka seek to merge technical virtuosity with sheer brutality. This isn't anything new to death metal; bands like Nile and Cannibal Corpse have been covering this territory for years. While Nephran-Ka sound a lot like their predecessors musically, the band differentiates itself from the pack by focusing its lyrical content on Frank Herbert's Dune universe.
Whether or not you enjoy this album may depend largely on your appetite for this style of music or how much of a sci-fi geek you are. Nephran-Ka don't offer up anything particularly original, but they do what they do well. The vocals are suitably guttural without crossing in to Cookie Monster territory, and the musicianship is tight and well composed. The technicality of the compositions never feels masturbatory like it does in a lot of tech death music, but it doesn't necessarily feel organic all the time either. Sections of songs sometimes feel like they were assembled like a collage (which they almost certainly were), and the drums, in particular, sound clipped off at the end of fills.
That the lyrics of The Fall of Omnius explicitly reference the Dune universe is certainly a selling point, but metalhead Herbert aficionados are going to be sorely disappointed if they buy this album based solely on that fact. Like all brutal death metal, the vocals are completely unintelligible without a lyric sheet. It seems counter-intuitive to market an album based largely on it's lyrical subject matter when you can't understand the vocalist, but that's what's happening here. Track titles like "Butlerian Djihad," "Mastering the Voice," and "Praise Shai-Hulud" will sound enticing to Dune fans but, to fully appreciate this album, you need a lyric sheet.
The Fall of Omnius isn't a bad album by any means. But it's not great, either. Fans of brutal technical death metal will find a lot to like, and hardcore Dune fan boys will want this for their collection. Anyone else will want to take the LP for a spin on Spotify is it's an option, or stream "The Rise of Omnius" below.