Loch Vostok - Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast

Artist: Loch Vostok

Album Title: Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast

Label: ViciSolum Productions

Date of Release: 19 April 2024

As a fan of progressive metal, the name Loch Vostok is not unknown to me. However, despite dipping in and out of their music over the course of their career, their output never grabbed me enough to ensure that it stuck and that I became a fan. I’m not altogether sure as to the reasons why, either, but all I can say is that finally, I have woken up. Mind you, unless it has been a cruel trick played on my aging brain, I can’t ever remember the music being quite this good. You’re probably all shouting at your screens, saying ‘yes, it has’, but that’s not been my recollection.

For those, like me, who are in need of a little context and catch up, Loch Vostok hail from Uppsala in Sweden and have been in operation since the year 2000. In that time, they have released no fewer than eight full-length records, with this, ‘Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast’ being their ninth. A quintet, they are comprised of founding members Teddy Möller (guitars, harsh vocals) and Niklas Kupper (guitars) alongside newer recruits in bassist Patrik Orwald, drummer William Parkstam, and vocalist Jonas Radehorn, who took over from Möller in 2019 as the chief voice of the band.

‘Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast’ is apparently the second of a planned trilogy, but it is where I finally find myself jumping on the bandwagon and appreciating this band in the manner that they are entitled. The press release delivers a couple of fantastic descriptive lines about the band that’s named after a subterranean lake in Antarctica, including: “where cheese meets grind. Where speed meets groove. The unholy child of Emperor and Tears For Fears, the bastard cousin of King Diamond and King’s X.” Perhaps this is why I am only now clicking with Loch Vostok; the fact that they are prepared to marry together such disparate ideas and sounds, maybe it hasn’t always hit the mark with me the way that it has for others, or the way that the band intended. Who knows? But what I do know is that ‘Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast’ has made a strong impression on me.

Albums like this are both a blessing and a curse for a reviewer. On the one hand, with each song offering something a little different or positive, the review almost writes itself if you let it. On the other, it does mean that you feel almost obligated to reference every song because otherwise something noteworthy isn’t given due attention. But, when the results are as enjoyable as they are here, I say ‘to hell with it’ and dive straight in.

Up first is the barnstorming lead single, ‘Distant Assistance’ which comes out of the traps flying. There’s no intention of easing us in gently as crisp, sharp riffing blends with punchy, aggressive drumming to throw us headlong into the album. Double-pedal drumming, a strong tempo, and a combination of clean and gruff vocals ensure that our blood is pumping right from the get-go. And that’s even before the chorus hits, which is even more intense and thunderous, laced with a catchy hook that’s immediately an attention grabber.

Loch Vostok - Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast
Credit: Jens Ryden

Rather than continue on the same trajectory, Loch Vostok immediately mix things up. ‘Cult Status’ follows and the intro is quiet, with a digital beat initially alongside bold electronics. The heaviness is soon increased, but the atmosphere feels darker, moodier, especially when the verses are dominated by a cool, stop-start bass and drums emsemble complete with layers of synths. In keeping with the opener, the chorus is excellent, offering instant catchiness with some killer machine gun drumming to accentuate its overall impact. The strong electronics and digitised vocals that appear at the end serve to increase the uncomfortable dystopian feeling of the track, one that is a genuine grower.

‘The Great Wide Open’ immediately opens with a melodic riff and strong synths but, again, the song is laced with quieter passages, this time led by clean guitar notes and a pulsating bass. The vocal strengths of Jonas Radehorn come even more the fore, singing the simple line ‘until we die’ in a way that begs you to sign along with him. When the chorus hits, the vocals get even better, and I’m offered vague Pagan’s Mind hints to what is a belter of an emotional, quasi-ballad chorus. In particular, the crunch of the guitar tones as they dish out the melodious riffs are irresistible. As is the soaring lead guitar solo towards the closure of the song.

Where will Loch Vostok go next? The answer arrives with ‘Children Of Science’ and it’s overtly progressive sounding, off-kilter rhythms, lead guitar flamboyance, and lashings of atmosphere. Just like all that have gone before it, this composition features a ridiculously memorable chorus, whilst the grunt in the guitars once again gives me tingles. The only misstep for me is lyrically – I’m not sure I want to hear the line ‘they’re just measuring their cocks’ at quite such a volume – but otherwise, this is a properly progressive-sounding track blended with great vocals and killer hooks.

As I’ve alluded to already, there really isn’t a poor track to be found on ‘Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast’. However, for my tastes, I’m slightly less enamoured with the blood and thunder of ‘Senses’, that is until another powerful chorus arrives to add balance to the composition. Plus, the dark synth passage with more digitised vocals is strangely alluring. Ok, ok, I like this track, too.

Elsewhere, I’m drawn to ‘Drastic Measures’ because of the instantly progressive vibe that it conveys thanks to another intriguing rhythmic structure, as well as providing arguably my favourite chorus on the album. ‘The final battle is tonight. We have to strike with all our might’ is the opening lyric to the AOR-infused chorus, the hooks to which are insanely sharp and have been at the forefront of my mind when awaking from slumber on more than one occasion. That said, the dystopian theme that weaves its way through this record’s compositions, is never far away and is demonstrable towards the closing sequence of the song.

I could go on and reference every single song, like the death metal-infused riffs within ‘Lords Of The Inanimate’, or the smooth, melodic nature of ‘Just Like That’ but I’ve probably made my feelings quite clear regarding the music on this album. Finally. It may have taken me a quarter of a century to cotton on, but finally, I’m a fan of Loch Vostok. ‘Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast’ is a wonderfully crafted and occasionally eccentric album, with the eccentricities one of its greatest charms and attributes. It’s also remarkably consistent with only a couple of the songs failing to hit me as hard as the vast majority on offer here. With strong melodies, crunchy and bruising heaviness, and demonstrable progressive intent, ‘Opus Ferox II – Mark Of The Beast’ is fantastic and comes with my unequivocal stamp of approval.

The Score of Much Metal: 92%



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