|5 (1 votes):|
Death metal is a genre that in recent years, I have not been keeping up with very much, in the sense that I follow the scene, or anticipate and buy newer albums of the genre, whether underground or mainstream. After the plain uninteresting 2018 Deicide album, and the semi-disappointing 2017 Cannibal Corpse album, more big-name death metal bands failed to captivate my attention, as the sounds started to mesh with one another and lost any luster of uniqueness or alteration. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the genre or some of the albums these names produced, but the underground scene had more to offer, and that’s where Obskkvlt comes into play. From A Coruña, Galicia in Spain, Obskkvlt was formed in 2015 but didn’t release anything proper until January of 2019, that being their first full-length album, Blackarhats. Besides featuring drummer Nicholas Barker of Lock Up and various other projects, the rest of the members seemingly have no other notoriety other than this featured album. Does inexperience dread pestilence over this devastating debut or does it absolutely destroy? My listening experience suggests the latter.
Call it speculation, but going forward, my gut tells me that this album went through development hell, solely by looking at the band’s YouTube page chronicling the album’s creation. The first three singles were released in 2015, the “creating” video logs span 2017-2018, and as stated prior, the album was finally released in 2019. Aside from the mix and sound of the album, the music itself on the album closely resembles its 2015 form, and doesn’t show any signs of being rushed or haphazardly put together. Let this timeline show that the band took their time in creating their debut, rather than slap it together and call it a day. The album is certainly more fine-tuned for it and stands as a testament for how much effort the band put into creating Blackarhats. And their effort is undoubtedly rewarding on the consumer’s side of things, as this album demonstrates creativity and experimentation, aspects that are highly productive when done right.
Stylistically, this is anything but straight-forward death metal. Undisputedly, this is a death metal album, but it employs a vast array of alien effects, noises and structure, it almost feels like a new style entirely at times. The riffing gets so chaotic, manic and deranged at times, coupled with a devious speed courtesy of guitar player Hrodiriks, makes for an atmosphere reminiscent of a spiritual Armageddon. The band seems to transcend reality itself while playing, and this is amplified with its ravenous use of industrial like samples, which are as apocalyptic as the band is, rivalling bands like Anaal Nathrakh. Blackarhats doesn’t convey the average death metal tone of ‘brutal’ but rather a tone of occultist chaos. This album’s style also incorporates minute, yet discernable flavors of other genres, like djent, southern/groove metal, metalcore gothic metal and atmospheric metal. And these styles, while miniscule outright, are still incorporated naturally and never feel too out of place. These factors considered, the closest I could come to dubbing Blackarhats’ style was “Post-Death Metal”. This album is one of the most modern and original takes on the genre of death metal I have ever heard, period. But like every album, this one is not without its own flaws.
Athal-Berath on vocals does a stupendous job at providing a dual performance between his aggressive shouts, and monotone, gothic vocals. The issue at hand is not that they clash, but rather how hard it can be to comprehend them at times. Most of the time, they do not overlap, but when doing the monotone, spoken word vocals, they’re so quiet in the mix, it’s hard to hear them, especially with all the noise occurring around them, be it the instruments or industrial noises. And this goes for the aggressive vocals as well, though not as quiet as the spoken words, they still feel a bit underwhelming when the other instruments are blasting alongside. Another nitpick, is that the enunciation at times is distracting. I don’t expect a native Spaniard to know and speak perfect English, but Athal-Berath does an on-par job, so when he mispronounces certain words, it feels a little hokey, but nothing too noticeable to detract from the album. Performance wise, the vocals are incredible, but the mix does a disservice to them by overshadowing them.
The only utterly unimpressive aspect of the album is the lyrical subject of the occult and spiritual. Thankfully it doesn’t attack the all too common subject of anti-Christianity, but rather goes for a rejection of modern religion and thinking, as well occultism, spirituality and existence. The issue is that none of it is done in any way that feels revolutionary or distinctive, and even comes off as pseudo-intellectual babble. This is amplified by the scant use of Latin phrases and sayings. It’s not a cardinal sin if the band finds this terminology and subject matter interesting, but the philosophy featured here is not anything groundbreaking.
Overall, Blackarhats is a fantastic album, culminating in a crock pot of various ideas and styles, which for the most part are executed with a unique finesse. Even if death metal isn’t your cup of tea, the run time alone shows that this album doesn’t require intense focus to get through, as it is only about 29 minutes in length, much shorter than most albums of this vein. I can’t say the 4 year wait was worth it, as I didn’t have to wait at all, however if I had, I’d say it would be, as this album is a vigorous display of talent and innovation, and if it ever gets a physical release in the future, I’ll be sure to purchase it.