Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Enthroned - Obsidium (2012)

Enthroned hail from Belgium, and are without compare one of the most important, long lived black metal bands in that scene. Obsidium is their 9th full length album, and another dose of fiery, well-produced evil from a band that can seemingly do no wrong. Indeed, I count Enthroned as one of the most consistent bands within all the realms of black metal, slowly but surely building their malevolent kingdom one brick at a time. Though they’ve never quite enraptured me as much as some other projects that roam the godless blackened lands, they’ve nevertheless remained a beacon of quality for going on 20 years. Obsidium continues the philosophy of refinement rather than reinvention, a formula the band have distilled to a damn tasty degree, slowly rising in vitriolic percentage, and a listen to this will make your decadent spirit tremble in glee, just as a shot of 151 would do to your liver in horror.

At 40 minutes, Obsidium is pretty to the point. This is very Swedish sounding, melodically-inclined black metal with a focus on the riffing, which largely succeeds in its impure mission. The chord progressions here are like a true flood of primal black energy, fermented in nobility and hate, riding the winds of Armageddon with a practiced grace. Riffing backdrops range from mid-paced to storming, always accompanied by a selection of ancient, unsettling notation. The more intense bits remind me very strongly of Marduk, as do the pestilent emanations of singer Nornagest, a satisfying, spiteful snarl. I love Phorgath’s roiling, pulsating bass tone; it’s nice and audible, and feels like a subtle undercurrent of warmth in a hostile, frozen world, or the lifeblood of some nocturnal horror. Drummer Garghuf reprises his role from the last record, and performs with the level of professionalism and celerity one would expect of such a respected institution, blasting with easy confidence and even adding some subtle cymbal-work for a covert flourish or two.

The 9 songs here didn’t feel as varied or distinguishable as I had expected at first, but after number of listens, the subtleties really begin to take shape, and the character of each song becomes apparent. Once again, much of this material is heavily reminiscent of Marduk, but there are other flavors at work as well. The panoramic, icy riffing often feels similar to Gorgoroth, and the melodic leads are somewhat redolent of Dark Funeral or Lord Belial. However, don’t let that ring with negativity, for if you have a proclivity for strong, well-produced black metal, there isn’t a single track here that will let you down. I mention these names just to entice you, as they may be indicative of your enjoyment of Obsidium.

If one were to level any complaints against this, it would be that nothing in the stylistic tendencies or riff-craft is going to be inherently new to anyone well acquainted with the black metal multiverse, as the tricks here have been done pretty much countless times. Make no mistake, this is pretty traditional stuff, utilizing established and prevalent techniques, but the way they go about it, and the quality of the average riff here, is quite compelling. Enthroned’s primary mode of attack is a biting, furious wind, sometimes building layers of good riffs on top of each other to create a very flowing, expressive attack.

Anyone who has read a decent amount of my reviews can tell my primary means of expression concerning music is the mental imagery it conjures, and this is based on my innate sense of connection to what an artist is trying to accomplish. Originality is not always important; it’s more interesting to behold and bask in vision. To that effect, I don’t give two shits if Enthroned aren’t the most eccentric kid in the black metal playground, because I like the feeling of their music. It resonates with my strange, warped spirit and sends it spiraling off to ancient, forgotten lava fields that work in tandem with my imagination to succeed. Such is music, though, I suppose.

This album is clean and crushing, like a crystalline tower, and marks the creation of another splendid spire, an excellent addition to Enthroned’s ever-expanding castle. I have a lot of fun listening to it and reveling in the permeating atmosphere, and that alone makes it good. It has not sunk deep enough into my memory in order for me to consider it amazing, but it’s one of the best black metal releases I’ve heard this year, and it’s growing on me every single time I listen to it, so it’s going to stay in rotation for awhile, you can bet your corpse-painted ass.

True to Enthroned’s MO, Obsidium is a strong, compelling gust of blackened majesty that seems to give as much as you’re prepared to put into it, but still strikes somewhere short of immortality. Still, for any black metal neophytes and wizards who enjoy the cleaner, tighter, more melodic variations on the genre like Marduk, Naglfar, Lord Belial, and Dark Funeral (all ironically from Sweden), then I urge you to check out not only this, but Enthroned’s entire career, an unholy flame that has not lost a fraction of its spirit or fury, continuing to burn with passion, skill, and integrity.

8.25 / 10 - As a Corrupted Spring