OBSCENE – …From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon (2022)REVIEW

It takes a weirdo, a person with natural placement outside of the thrum of populism, to pick up on the vitality of a slowly drying craft beyond the tunnel vision of trend and trampled core ethos and break the droll spell of the motions with something vivifying, inspired. Within the unsure din of 2020 and the storm of stress it’d pressed upon entertainment as a whole we’d found important presence beyond the usual faux ‘old school’ death metal crowd in the greater United States by way of Obscene‘s debut album, a different yet familiar style from a crew of folks who were just as much, or more ingrained with the ‘true’ death metal spiritus than usual for the sake of their experience broadened worldview. In meditating upon the successes of their lauded first album the Indianapolis, Indiana-based quartet follow that moment with further insight, rightfully focused on taking their already well-refined sound and energetic diction into a theatric, battery-charging conversation with their fellow guitar music enjoyers on ‘…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon‘ — A step taken into professional mastery rather than bored iteration which presents solid argument enough that you don’t have to dumb it down to have a bit of “fun” with death metal and reach the right ears.

Between the incomplete melodic phrases and guitar progression fascinated nods of ‘Terminal Spirit Disease‘ and the pit-ready churning blueprint provided by Asphyx‘ ‘The Rack‘ we find the basal conversational elements that’d driven Obscene‘s riffing early on, a feat akin to Horrendous‘ underground breakthrough in view of the expanse ‘Ecdysis‘ in spirit but without the progressive metal intent or any interest in absolute consonance or dramatism. In this sense ‘The Inhabitable Dark‘ (2020) [see: review] was yet kin to nearby records from Coffin Rot and Molder, a great appreciation for the classics informing their ideal aesthetic and guitar riff obsessed, still-thrashing ‘old school’ death metal aspect. This certainly included a strong hint of pre-stop/start chug-era groove, wherein songs like “The Black Hole of Calcutta” definitely had a bit of a swinging movement to its more finessed riffing, the type of movement we typically only get from folks who’d learned to play the guitar while the legacy of Pantera was still of cross-generational interest, or, alternately a 90’s metal fluency which had shown adept understanding of what peak statement death metal had made by 1993 without getting lost in the noise of a thousand mediocre bands offering their too-soon takes on others original works. Point being that ‘…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon‘ shows some stock taken as to what works, what sticks, and bends this into their own intuitive taste for an accessible yet not at all compromised death metal ideal.

“I Shall Drink the Earth’s Blood” sets this tone right from the start as the longest and perhaps most involved rhythm guitar driven piece on the full listen, serving us the first bookend of a neatly arranged running order. This bulldozer of slow-rolling riffs and dive-bombed n’ harmonized leads echoes malformed in the conclusion of the album (“Open Grave of a Forgotten Past”) to some degree, each sewn to the ends of the record by short intro/outro tracks. Though we’re all here for the rabid vocals and a colonnade of riffs Obscene make sure they’ve expressed themselves within presentation worthy of repeat listens, ushering in their big ideas up front rather than just plainly chunking them out like a shopping list with “riffs” written three times in the middle. A steady hand approves these choices and with no real interest in fuckery or nonsense beyond a few well-placed quotes sampled from film, each mere seconds and non-interruptive.

The six 3-4 minute pieces which comprise the meaty center of ‘…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon‘ still reflect the easy-thrashing riffcraft of their past works but now consider their placement and tension in a sort of ‘Necroticism: Descanting the Insalubrious‘-esque interlocking fashion, the run-on crunch and Bill Steer-esque chord-bending rests of “Faith Through Pain” and the cyclic snappiness of “The Burrowing Hiss” presenting a sort of less is more attack that gets right to the point with appreciable finesse. The main event for those prone to get hyped over sheer energetic rapture in death metal shows up right in the pole position, though — I can’t think of a single music video out this year that’d made me more ready to get my dumb ass to a death metal show than Obscene‘s inspired clip for lead single “Deathless Demigod“, a cyclone of thrashing yet angularly phrased bursting-out that represents a key moment of personae and memorability for the band. Reeking of pent-up energy, increasingly morbid visions and the type of rabidly groovin’ delivery that threatens to set ’em apart even more this single doesn’t just sell the album to me but gives me a greater argument for death metal still having some excitement to serve, even within these relatively minimal and classicist dressings. A simple song when considering the album’s overall affect yet entirely effective at energizing their base and pinning the album in mind thanks to its up front placement.

As for the riffs that’d stuck with me longest… most pieces have gotten mention already, though I’d liked the linkage of droning phrases shared within “I Shall Drink the Earth’s Blood” and “Insensate Cruelty”, also hitting the ~2:05 mark on the song was a huge hook that’d stood out from the first listen, brief as that moment is. I suppose the opening for “Shrew’s Nest” being particularly brutal and slapped out made a strong impression on me and keyed into the impressive force drummer Brandon Howe (Mother of Graves) has brought to each Obscene record, connecting the dots between many rigid death metal forms and easing those borderlines overall. Its Side B buddy “Children of the Static” finds a good crossover between a pretty normal late album thrasher and an opportunity for more groove-obsessed progression mashing wherein it matters more that they’ve kept the energy up rather than written a memorable song at that point.

From a most objective point of view Obscene still manifest as a “normal” legacy death metal unit yet not the plainest normative standard for the regressive ilk of today. The argument that they’re a stark outlier fades a bit here in terms of the accessible nature of the full listen if you’re a die-hard ‘old school’ death enjoyer but this aspect shines in direct comparison to ‘new old school’ death metal released in the last five or so years. That might be an unreasonably convoluted bit of appreciation on my part but it counts for something that ‘…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon‘ is compelling enough to warrant splicing and worming over its many hats worn and details abounding. Anything else I could parse at this point should be stark and obviate — such as Kyle Shaw‘s vocals still ringing as energetic and memorably set, or Skaðvaldur‘s mountain of bones-and-beast making for a stare-and-sweat worthy gatefold spectacle. They’re not yet transcending known realms of death metal’s sonic/aesthetic surety but inarguably have the verge in view, a sense of self that develops in leaps (rather than fumbling steps) within each release, an impressive feat for a band who’ve not been able road test these songs/their gig to the desired degree just yet. A very high recommendation, an essential ‘old school’ death metal-minded release for the year.

Very high recommendation. (85/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:…From Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon
LABEL(S):Blood Harvest Records
RELEASE DATE:May 27th, 2022

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