[25 November 2013]
Scandinavians, and more particularly Norwegians, seem to be a truly macabre lot. There is just something about the Scandinavian sun, or lack thereof, that tweaks the inner-most caverns of the Nordic psyche into expelling some truly sick-sounding music, the likes of which can only be conceivably drawn from a deeply disturbed mind. Now that an entire ethnic group has been arbitrarily maligned thanks to a fringe element of its underground culture, Obliteration should probably be introduced as evidence of this.
Obliteration embarked upon its unholy mission in 2001, their discography beginning in 2004 with their demo, which was followed up the following year with the Total Fucking Obliteration EP. Two full lengths, two EP and a split later, Black Death Horizon, their third album, makes it to our shores courtesy of the Relapse imprint.
This Norwegian band is often billed as hailing from the same hometown as Darkthrone, as if relying on the name of their deified Black Metal compatriots to draw in some notability. However, one listen to Black Death Horizon will quickly prove the use of coincidental geographic whereabouts to be an unnecessary marketing hook. These lads can stand on their own eight feet, rooted firmly on the strength of their playing chops. If and when Fenriz passes the torch, I present thee the contenders to the throne.
While the lowest common denominator of this record is old school Death Metal, this sonic beast is hybridized, its bloodline tainted with elements from many ends of the extreme metal spectrum past and present. Thrash influences abound in the record, a throwback to Death Metal’s upstarts when the rulebook of the genre had yet to have been written. A punk-like feel is conveyed at times courtesy of the quasi-D-beat time signatures that the drummer throws in (no surprise there, considering that they formed originally as a punk band in 2001). These speed passages come to crashing halts into Death/Doom crawls the likes of which haven’t been executed with this much power, or creep factor, since Autopsy’s Mental Funeral.
The character of this album is best defined by the bleak feeling it invokes musically, often in primitive black metal form. Having come together under the same grim moon that lit the path for Mayhem, Darkthrone and their ilk, Obliteration would inevitably draw from that bloody well, going head first into icy, dissonant blasts. This they do seamlessly, trading off back and forth between Black and Death as in “Sepulchral Rites”, this album’s standout, as well as in the title cut.
Obliteration’s sound is by no means derivative, even when borrowing amphetamine-fueled blast beats reminiscent of their satanic countrymen. Certainly, their influences are easily detectable to Metal savvy ears, but the record sounds fresh, and not regurgitated. There is a void-like atmosphere prevalent throughout the album, but with an undertone that keeps you drawn in. Some of the fast parts have a vastness to them that is enthralling, not unlike Negative Plane’s free-fall-like descents into madness. Their slow-downs are just plain menacing, looming like impending doom.
is a worthwhile addition to any respectable Metal record collection. Old school Death freaks I challenge thee to just try and get through this album without a grimace on your face. I bet you can’t. The Relapse A&Rs that scouted these guys really earned their holiday bonus this year by delivering a modern day classic to their label head’s feet. Satan is pleased with you! For anyone who has lost faith Death Metal’s ability to carry on without losing novelty, this album is indication otherwise. Now bow before the “Goat Skull Crown”.