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Omnia Opera, England


 

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Omnia Opera - Beyond the Tenth. 1986 private cassette.
Omnia Opera - Celebrate for Change. 1987 private cassette.
Omniasphere - Surfing the Zuvuya. 1990 private cassette.
Omnia Opera - s/t. 1993 Delerium.
Omnia Opera - Red Shift. 1997 Delerium.
Omnia - Seeking the Elusive. 1997 private cassette.
Omnia Opera – Nothing is Ordinary. 2011 Umbilical

The first 3 albums (and Omnia) are all being featured on my sister site the CDRWL, as they have yet to see a reissue. Omnia Opera can best be described as a heavier and more in-yer-face variation of the classic UK festival space rock sound. About the only band I can think of that rocks harder than Ozric Tentacles in this genre. The first two cassettes listed here are very similar to the CDs, and in fact some feature reworked versions.

The Omniasphere is also quite good, perhaps a bit more geared towards the electronica crowd. I haven't heard the Omnia album (it barely gets a mention on their webpage - thus living up its album title).

As an aside, if you're a fan of Omnia Opera, you may also want to seek out the Blim cassettes, which we also hope to see on CD someday!

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For my tastes, the best Omnia Opera album to date is their debut CD on Delirium. In Omnia Opera, we get a glimpse into the possible scenario of what would Ozric Tentacles have sounded like had they used Hawkwind as a blueprint rather than Hillage era Gong. Omnia Opera is a seriously heavy bunch, with over-distorted riffing guitars leading the charge. But they're also quite cosmic, with early Pink Floyd style build ups, wordless voices, psychedelic ambient guitars - and finally ferocious climaxes with wild fuzz guitar soloing similar to Ed Wynne and crew. Best tracks are 'The Awakening' and 'Each Day', but every track is a winner.

Other than Ozric Tentacles, Omnia Opera remains my second favorite UK space rock band from the 1980s and beyond. Yea, true, I'm pretty much a fanboy with this group.

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"Red Shift": What separated Omnia Opera from the others of the scene (and it should be noted the band themselves state they weren't really part of the movement much at all) is they were one of the very few, if not the only one, to actually be heavier than the Ozrics. Omnia Opera were an aggressive bunch with thrashing guitars in the Hawkwind style, mixed with the ripping solos that Ed Wynne and crew are also noted for. While their debut received generally positive reviews, "Red Shift" was generally panned. In retrospect, their sophomore followup is no less worthy of recognition. Where some of the dissatisfaction came from, I’m sure, is the inclusion of techno elements, which many felt was the direction that killed the festival movement itself. Delerium Records seemed to almost insist every band on their roster at least incorporate some bits of electronica into their albums (Note: Omnia Opera has exonerated the label, stating they had nothing to do with Omnia Opera’s choice of utilizing techno). Now I personally see the rejection of "Red Shift" as more of an audience’s turning-the-back on the new electronica styles being force fed to them, verse an actual objective viewpoint of the album itself. I suggest everyone who has a fondness for this style to give it one more listen.

I wrote the above paragraph about four years ago on my former website. And I have to say, on a fresh listen this week, that the album continues to age better. There is no other way to say it: It kicks ass. Listen to 'Fly and Burn' which illustrates my point. 

My friend Spyros (Spacefreak) writes: ""Red Shift" indeed aged better. Upon release I shelved it upon first listen, however I am regularly spinning it the last two years.

OMNIA OPERA were heavier because they were closer to the punk scene (and punks populated Stonehenge free festival during the mid 80ies) than the space hippie tribe. Their very first recorded contribution (a sped-up version of "Space Bastard") saw the light on an anarcho punk cassette compilation issued in benefit of the Derby Sabotage Hunters fund.

I don't think that it was Goa psychedelic trance (subgenre of techno popular at the free festival gigs) that killed the free festival scene. Both EAT STATIC and ASTRALASIA had a wide acceptance among their parent bands audiences. In my opinion it was the Criminal Justice Bill that put an end to free festivals, gatherings and outdoor parties, that ended that particular British scene."


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That gets us to the long anticipated reunion, an album that was released well over a year after being first announced. Reunion albums are always a dicey proposition. It seems very few bands from the 1970s could ever get it right. As if they never understood why they were popular in the first place. But 1980s groups fared much better, and I think that's because of the circumstances from which they came about. In many cases, bands in the 1980s languished in the underground for years and years, with only their ardent supporters in attendance along with a dedicated-to- the-music-genre magazine press. Heavy metal groups were the most prolific, but on a lesser scale space rock, psychedelic and progressive rock bands toiled in the small dirty clubs, and sold a small amount of LPs and later CDs to their fan base. Other than in the metal genre, the sales were too small to make a living at it, unless one wanted to remain a pauper their entire life.

With that in mind, Omnia Opera has really set the bar high for reunion attempts. The band went all out with a sprawling 2 CD set. Generally that's not appealing to me - presenting far too much music, and usually far too much filler. Two hour CDs are like 3 hour movies - they can be a slog to get through. Well I have good news for all of you here: There's not a moment wasted through the entire duration. It's as if they had spent the last 14 years putting it together. All the trademark sounds of classic Omnia Opera are on display: Heavy psychedelic guitars, thundering bass, active drumming, impassioned male and female vocals, and of course the cosmic keyboards. All the tracks are thought out, and present plenty of twists and turns to keep it exciting.

This is another album that has proven to be difficult to obtain via the normal channels. And like The Higher Craft, I just went ahead and ordered it straight from the band. If you collect CDs, you're in for a treat, as Nothing is Ordinary is beautifully packaged in a gatefold CD cover, and comes with some extras. As well, if you buy the CD, you will receive a legitimate download copy as well.

Omnia Opera's long awaited return has been met with enthusiastic reviews. Check out the below:

Aural Innovations writes: "But the new 2-CD set, titled Nothing Is Ordinary, is not a band which after many years just decided to give it another go. Rather, this sprawling 18 track set is a great leap forward. The album flows like one continuous journey, with several of the songs tied together by transitional bits. You've got blazing space rock, floaty-drifty space, songs, narrative bits... it's a great combination... ...and must say after several listens that I consider Nothing Is Ordinary to be a raging success."

Rivertree@ProgArchives adds: "The result is an entertaining double album, two hours full of sparkling details, twist and turns, spiked with highly melodic, extravagant and also jamming parts... ... Space cadets all over should pay attention here, highly recommended! So much spirit cumulated in recent years, a great experience - deserves a place on my best-of list for the year 2011"

To order the CD, go here
(it's painless)

Let's hope we haven't heard the last from this great band!

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