Obolus: Lament

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Obolus: Lament
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Obolus: Lament
Black Metal
Flenser Records
February 1st, 2012
Release length: 19:57
Bandcamp

Obolus is yet another group to join the quickly strengthening underground US Black Metal scene. No real information is available about the group, including its members and where they originate from. However, this faceless act seems to have formed only recently in 2011. Later that year, a two song demo was issued, which was quickly followed up on with Lament, a five song EP issued through Flenser Records. With their first attempt receiving plenty of high marks and praise, does the band manage to attract new followers into the niche circle of the catacombs that they have made their home, or is this just another drop in the overflowing bucket?

In keeping with the underground concept of Black Metal, Obolus have handled this EP as a much rawer effort. The music is pretty loud, and for the most part rather crisp. In the instrumentals the guitars are often clean to usher in that cold depressive sound, while a sharper distortion is used for the other non-atmosphere rich tracks. The bass is at a decent level, offering a slight vibration you can feel when playing the material at a louder level, but never dropping out, grounding some of the mid-level riffs well. The drumming isn’t capture that great in some levels though. At times it can seem as though it can cut out, as if due to a damaged or dirty cassette, but those are minimal and hard to detect at times. Other than that, the cymbals come through at mixed levels, some loudly and at the forefront while others pushed back in the mix and can sound washed out from time to time. The snares are really tight and keep the pace covered well along with the thud of the bass kicks, which is shown nicely on the faster cut “Hatred.” The vocals are a mixed bag as well. Some songs come through with wails of whipping wind through the melancholic tones of the music, and other times they can be lost in the material almost entirely with how distant they become, as if something from early Darkthrone recordings like A Blaze in the Northern Sky.

While there are five tracks on the release, only three of them are actual songs. “Reflection” and “Lament” are two instrumentals, and they are done quite well. The cleaner guitars and slower pace of “Reflection” really sends a chill through the listener’s body as the somber two minute plus offering establishes a very depressing atmosphere that can easily make you do a retrospect on yourself, looking back at all the negative things that have come and gone by your hands, or those of someone else. The latter, “Lament,” is just a little longer, utilizing the rain audio sample that appears on “Desolation” in a similar manner, bringing in some acoustic guitars to usher in a thaw to that frozen despair “Reflection” and the others create, acting as a very suiting conclusion of the album in the manner of a self-away act of closure that carries over to you as well, especially after experiencing the previous seventeen minutes of the journay prior. Again, the slower pace is met with some deeper, haunting chords that don’t quite rid you of the similar tone of the release, but it becomes a welcome sensation until it gradually fades out.

These two songs alone are well executed, and shining examples of what the US Black Metal scene can offer, and the non-clean tracks speak volumes more of it. “Desolation” ends up a much more standard haunting and depressing offering that doesn’t really usher in a strong chill like others will, but the chords are memorable at the start, giving off an environment one might expect of a modern French group of the style. While far from melancholic or an entry into the Depressive sub-genre, the melodies that the cleaner leads give off really stick with the listener to make a moving experience, even when the material picks up and the drums hammer away at a faster pace in the snares and kicks. “Hatred” really changes things up, leaving behind the lack of distortion in some areas for a venomous assault of rage that perfectly suits the title. The vocals are a little stronger, and even a bit more violent in a sense, sounding like the wails of a ghoul amid the wind of a cold night’s frosting. The speed never seems to deter, hammering away at the listener non-stop without fault in the beat to the guitars or drums. “Grievance” ushers in the final change, and once more it suits the nature described in its own title. The vocals largely remain the same, but the tone of the music shifts away from the aggression to more rain sound effects at a much longer period of time, both at the start as well as conclusion, fading in with music similar to “Reflection” but sharper, holding a very accepting environment of what has befallen. By the two minute and forty-nine seconds mark, the song picks up the speed once more, and the guitar work becomes depressive again, picking up the pace akin to the previous offering that has another powerful, moving result with some really interesting bass kicks that pull away from the steady machinegun pattern of those that came before it.

For a band that lets little be known of itself, the music speaks volumes of its creator(s). Lament is the perfect title for a recording such as this, with each track triggering a specific emotion greatly reflected in the title. These subtle changes in atmosphere really make this EP stand out, and while there’s a varied mixture of melancholy, depression, and frost, the link from one song to another is very clear amid its rawer Black Metal output. While not the most awe-inspiring of the underground, Obolus clearly took a lot of pride in weaving environments anyone can connect with, utilizing many typical concepts of the underground world to their advantage without just coming off as another group lost amid the countless others that practice what everyone else is already preaching. If you haven’t had the opportunity to check out Obolus before, then Lament is the perfect effort to make yourself aware of this hidden gem that any self-respecting fan of the style should become familiar with, as well as hear at least once in its entirety, especially since you can [at the time of posting this article] download this from the label’s bandcamp page for free.

01. Desolation – 5:02
02. Reflection – 2:06
03. Hatred – 3:37
04. Grievance – 6:55
05. Lament – 2:16
Overall Score: 9/10
 (Logo)
Digital review copy of this release provided by The Flenser Records.