Tuesday 18 October 2016

ALBUM REVIEW: Obsidian Kingdom - “A Year with No Summer”

By: Jay Hampshire

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 11/03/2016
Label: Season of Mist

“This record is well constructed and the instrumentation is very impressive. But for those looking for similar fare to their previous work, they’d best keep looking.”

“A Year with No Summer” CD//DD//LP track list

1). A Year with No Summer
2). 10th April
3). Darkness
4). The Kandinsky Group
5). The Polyarnik
6). Black Swan
7). Away/Absent

The Review:

Barcelona’s Obsidian Kingdom can’t be defined easily. Orbiting extreme metal, rather than landing directly in its dank confines, the five piece draw influence from a myriad of other acts and sub genres in order to create their sound. “A Year with No Summer” is their first album proper since 2012’s “Mantiis – An Agony In Fourteen Bites” (there was an album of remixes that followed the latter in 2013). There have been substantial line-up changes since their last full length, but has it seen them lose their way, or has it breathed new life into the kingdom?

The title track opens with some hissing snare, slowly adding layers of stabbing bass and rising feedback. It wanders at a satisfying pace, glossy, smooth clean vocals adding to the laid back lustre. Things kick up a gear, launching into an anthemic, surging chorus that Killing Joke would be proud of. Ojete Mordaza II throws in some excellent, bouncing drum grooves, and the track lurches into more ‘metal’ territory with a razor edged drive towards the end.

It becomes increasingly clear that the group have skirted off into lighter, more experimental waters than they waded in with “Mantiis…” they stretch their electronica wings much more. ‘10th April’ broods with spoken word lyrics and wavering synths before being joined by grinding waves and urgent drum samples, twisting into swooping noise. When the band mesh these styles, it’s always complementary, and never seems tacked on or gimmicky.

‘Darkness’ races urgently with decent, grunty bass and yelped vocals, opening out into grinding chords and ascending guitar, stripping back into a moody shuffle around its centre. Longest track ‘The Kandinsky Group’ starts life as a wall of shuddering, creeping noise pierced by a singly bright sine wave, before lapsing into a smooth, rhythmic groove punctuated with porno guitar work. ‘The Polyarnik’ pulses at the jugular with deep synths and burbles its way towards cinematic, towering instrumental layers.

‘Black Swan’s curiously 80’s intro sees Rider G Omega’s vocals sounding curiously like Phil Collins, before swelling with powerful synths and bright guitar motes. ‘Away/Absent’ closes the show in style, kicking in with uplifting guitars before sweeping away with urgent riffs, splashy cymbals and rasped vocal yelps. It moves through a patch of tasty bass grooves, echoing spoken word vocals and frantic tom rolls, before the riffs return and a dazzling, manic guitar overlay drops in.

This is a very different band than the one that conjured up “Mantiis”. They’ve eschewed most of the trappings of death/black/extreme metal (no scream vocals, punishing blast beats or jagged riffs here). Dabbling more with electronica, jazz and lighter melodies, Obsidian Kingdom place themselves in with the post crowd, alongside the likes of Mogwai, Godspeed! And their ilk. This is no bad thing – this record is well constructed, the instrumentation is very impressive. But for those looking for similar fare to their previous work, they’d best keep looking.

“A Year with No Summer” is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

FFO: Ihsahn, Enslaved, Sólstafir