Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Obolus- Lament(2012)

Obolus- Lament

Obolus are another in an increasing number of obscure, mysterious Raw Black Metal bands... or solo projects... or whatever. As is increasingly common, no one really knows(creepy inflection) who makes up Obolus. Frankly, it's a played out gimmick that Deathspell Omega have been toying with for over a decade now. Regardless, this San Fransisco based Black Metal project have released this new EP through Flenser Records, a label well know for signing only the most progressive and noise-y Black Metal bands, so one would expect Lament to push many, many boundaries and enrage many, many hardcore cloak-and-chalice Black Metal elitist.

But it really doesn't. Lament is in many ways a fairly standard slice of raw, atmospheric Black Metal heavily influenced by the Depressive Black Metal sound. Elements of Burzum, Emperor and Leviathan all show up through Lament's five tracks of cold, disenchanted bleakness. And while nothing on display here is particularly original, Lament is as solid and even exhilarating as one could hope it would be, featuring mature and legitimately atmospheric compositions that make excellent use of keyboards to maximize the grim chills.

The strongest aspect of Lament is easily it's massive, yet extremely raw, production. I have heard Obolus referred to by some as part of the "Blackgaze" movement(considering they are from California, that makes some sense). I don't hear these elements in the actual compositions, but Lament's production could certainly give off this illusion. Making use of a "wall-of-sound" style production popular with many modern Shoegaze acts, Lament sounds just massive, with the oddly comforting fuzz of the guitars and bass creates a bed of dissonance for the listener to snuggle up into. The vocals hide just beneath the static, shrieking out as though they were voices in your head, pleading with you to end their suffering. Lament just has a tremendous sound, which allows it to overcome its fairly standard songwriting.

Standard, but not poor at all. Lament can be absolutely thrilling at times, like the explosive and haunting "Hatred," which blisters with raw riffs, chilling keyboards and damaged, fearful screams. Repetition is used to excellent effect throughout Lament to create atmospheric tapestries and deep wells of darkness. "Grievance" in particular shows these powerful techniques in full effect, starting with a highly atmospheric lead over the sounds of falling rain and suffocating static, before a slathering of Emperor-meets-Darkthrone style raw Black Metal kicks in, the keyboards providing a mournful chorus to a drama of raw, blistering Norwegian Black Metal.

Not having any expectations for this album might have helped, but Lament has been one of my favorite albums of 2012 so far. It isn't original, but the mature and complex musical compositions combined with some of the best production I have heard in Black Metal all year allows Lament to overcome it's standard origins and be something greater than the sum of it's parts. Flesner Records has been giving this spectacular little EP away for free via Bandcamp(while also releasing the album in physical form), so toss away the misgivings and give this a serious spin.

Rating: 8.5/10

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