With Kiasma, the New York-based composer Mario Diaz de Leon brings an interesting twist to his Oneirogen project by amping up the metal elements included on his debut album Hypnos. In fact, the fifty-minute set takes no time at all in announcing that move when the full six minutes of the opening cut “Numina” are dominated by guitar distortion, shuddering six-string textures, and an overall death metal-styled sense of foreboding, desolation, and doom.
But Kiasma is far from one-dimensional, and that's what makes it interesting. The second track, “Pathogen,” while featuring no shortage of molten guitar textures, counterbalances its metal leanings with sophisticated soundscape design of dark ambient character. Put simply, Oneirogen wisely balances the metal and electronic sides in a manner seldom attempted, and the effect proves to be arresting, especially when drums are wholly eschewed. The album is often epic and grandiose in tone, never more so than during pieces of intensity so great they verge on harrowing, such as “Mutilation” and the album's centerpiece, “Katabasis,” which finds Oneirogen's lethal chords lurching like some diseased monstrosity across blasted ruins for fourteen doom-drenched minutes. At album's end, “Mortisomnia” changes things up by adding Mario Diaz de Leon's vocal growl to the tune's guitars-and-synths landscape.
Yes, Kiasma is heavy, of that there's no doubt, but it's also refreshingly different from the norm. It's rare indeed to hear someone, as Oneirogen does, using multi-layered guitar shredding to craft nightmarish dark ambient set-pieces. Doom-laden material never sounded as musical as it does here.