Obscure is probably the most apt description of where the greater Spanish extreme metal evolution was at back in 1988 when as different brand of morbid thrashers set out to create the sort of brutal music that’d infected niches across the rest of Europe and North America beyond the mid-80’s. Obscure were undoubtedly one of the earliest death metal bands formed within Spain having been founded in Valencia circa 1988 while playing a darker style of thrash that hadn’t yet mastered the art of the ‘evil riff’ by 1989 when their first demo tape ‘Disgusting Reality‘ (1989) hit. Though I’d give the earliest Spanish ‘extreme’ metal demo tape award to their Andalusian neighbors in Necrophiliac (see: ‘Endless Death‘, 1988) but to be fair thrash metal was still in the process of spreading its brutal ripples across the country and few bands could keep up with the tempo of late 80’s death metal, often resorting to pitch-shifted vocals and programmed drums for an extreme sound. Obscure hadn’t truly arrived to dig up the dead until 1990 when their ‘Curse the Course‘ demo hit amidst the incredible explosion of death metal across Spain that same year. This could still be seen as a death/thrash demo by some but a deeper rip into the tape reveals a darker, more brutal sound and a clear grasp of the ripping n’ blasting inherent to 80’s death metal. The band’s third and final demo, ‘Non Existendi Cultus‘ (1992), was the soul-flaying cry of a band entirely ready to record their first album. Brutally blasted drums and rabid death/thrashing (think Accidental Suicide) modus made for one of the more dynamic and savage tapes from that era of Spanish death metal. In fact most of these songs were held onto despite the band splitting up in 1994, reforming from 2005-2009 (see: Orthodoxy), and then reforming again in 2016 this time ready to finally record this fated full-length nearly three decades later, their debut ‘Darkness Must Prevail’. The uncanny thing is that despite only two original members and thirty years in between new material Obscure still sounds a fair shake like they did back in 1992, just bigger, louder and carrying ten tons of groove upon their return.
At this point in time the ‘come back from the grave’ album from a demo-only 80’s or 90’s death metal band is an anxietous event where an old pillar could crumble or newly found a pantheon in and of itself, if they nail it. In the case of Obscure I’d say the outcome isn’t so cut-and-dry because they’re not remembered well enough outside of crypt-diving death metal demo hounds and ‘Darkness Must Prevail’ presents a mixture of old and new compositions that are sometimes markedly different. Groove became a nasty word among certain circles somewhere in the middle of the 90’s but it has always been a vital element of popular Spanish death and thrash metal acts since; Obscure incorporate groove metal in the sense that they’re not averse to moshable riffs throughout ‘Darkness Must Prevail’ and this will undoubtedly begin to resemble post-1998 Grave, Jungle Rot, and a healthy slab of Bolt Thrower as the album spins. This isn’t a problematic force until those slower, chugging numbers (think of a slower Cut Up) sit back-to-back with blasting old school bangers written back in 1991 (see: “Blessing of Malignancy”)– This’d be a valid point on my part if these new versions of “Through Self-Repulsion” and “Sunk Into Oblivion” weren’t already packed with simpler mosh metal moves and the whole of the tracklist does eventually all bleed together into what is appropriately a more modern version of Obscure.
“Curse of My Race” is a fine high-energy opener that showcases the dark (but not obscured) mix/master from Dan Swanö, who’d been the right person to realize the need to traverse the void between ‘old school’ quirks and brutally present death tones today. The title track is the first to really key into the heavy Scandinavian death metal influence upon Obscure and this is compounded twofold as the first few bars of “After Life” hit. From there “End Destination” is a fine Bolt Thrower influenced song that’d end up being my favorite on the tracklist next to the ripping closer “Blessing of Malignancy”, which was written for the ‘Non Existendi Cultus’ demo. Beyond that songs I’d mentioned up to this point the full listen wasn’t groundbreaking or particularly memorable on first listen but ‘Darkness Must Prevail’ is a solid ‘old school’ death metal record kicked up to a modern standard of fidelity within popular ‘classic’ death metal acts. In this sense it feels like a record from a band with more of a legacy than just one full-length in the space of three decades.
They’ve done it, right? I mean it’d definitely involved some difficult roadblocks over the last 27 or so years since their last demo tape but Obscure live up to that potential with a solid full-length. It would take nothing short of a love for death metal to finally cross that finish line the ‘right’ way and they’ve done their old material justice here. For sure material doesn’t blow me away beyond the standard of ‘classic’ attuned death metal in 2019 but it doesn’t have to, death metal can just be straight up and straight forward and still be well worth jamming. Moderately high recommendation. For preview purposes I’d first suggest grabbing Xtreem Music‘s ‘Back to Skull’ demo compilation for context and then compare some of the new versions with the old as you listen to ‘Darkness Must Prevail’; If you’re not interested in provenance then aim for my personal favorite tracks “End Destination” and “Blessing of Malignancy”.
Through pain and torment. 3.5/5.0
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