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Sifting through seemingly endless lists of completely unknown bands can be incredibly tiresome, but when one finds something truly worthwhile in such a search, it can be extremely satisfying; all that energy finally having found some results. While I can't claim Oblivion as a result of my personal searches, they are the result of someone's, and having done many such searches myself, I have a pretty good idea of how satisfying it would have been to stumble upon a gem like this among the steaming heaps of garbage that occupy the vast majority of unknown bands. Not only is the music unparalleled, not only is the atmosphere more or less perfect, but it was also released in fucking 1986. USPM was still in its infancy, and I can only guess that Oblivion drew influence from Metal Church's debut and Savatage's early material; the latter in particular makes sense, given that both bands were from the same city, but Oblivion's Quest for Power is far from a carbon copy of Savatage. While the influence is there, Oblivion are clearly their own beast with a level of songwriting Savatage only wish they could have achieved, an atmosphere that is second to none.
1984's The Dungeons Are Calling certainly comes to mind when listening to this demo and I daresay there are quite a few similarities between the two releases; both within EP length, both evocative of dungeons in some way, and both with stellar, charismatic vocalists. However, despite a couple of good songs, TDAC really doesn't have anything on Quest for Power. For one, vocalist Patrick Brown is absolutely unique and unstoppable with a merciless vibrato that could demolish anything in its path if it truly wanted to, but seems more content in making twisted schemes involving some sort of dark magic. At his raspiest he evokes a bit of David Wayne and at his cleanest Warrel Dane, but he definitely has the power and individuality to stand on his own. He's far from a copy of either.
The production here is pretty murky, which makes the demo even better than it would have been with a completely straightforward, objectively stronger production where some of the atmosphere and mystique would surely have been lost. Whether or not this is intentional is unknown, although given their relative anonymity and lack of money, my suspicion is the latter, in which case they're pretty fucking lucky to have it work so perfectly for them. The music actually sounds like it's being played from the depths of a medieval dungeon as deranged, but brilliant prisoner Patrick Brown alternates between scheming plots for revenge and telling stories of his past. "Maiden of the Dungeons" and "The Excutioner" work particularly well with this backdrop, given that the former actually refers to dungeons and the latter to sentencing. That's what's so fucking good about this demo. It sounds completely legitimate as if all of what I described were actually the case. It's pure escapism at its best, allowing the listener to suspend disbelief with very little effort and be transported to a world of Oblivion's making.
Putting the atmosphere aside for a moment, the riffs here are absolutely devastating from the galloping power/speed of "Battle Warrior" to the wistful, plaintive strumming of "Winds of War". Nothing gets old or stale; everything is top-notch all the time, whether empowering, gut-wrenching, or even arousing, as could be the case with "Maiden of the Dungeons" (assuming the listener is into such things as described in the song). The spoken intro on "The Executioner" is absolutely phenomenal - cheesy, sure, but a perfect fit for the demo.
There's very little to complain about here except the extreme obscurity of the demo. It should be up there with Omen and Fates Warning in popularity as it's easily as good as the best output of either. However, all I can do is vouch for its excellence myself and hope that more will listen. If you're a fan of any sort of traditional heavy or power metal, you need to hear this now. This is an absolutely essential release in the genre. Kudos to Brown and company for creating such a brilliant release.
Straight up this is one of the best USPM demo's I've ever heard. I remember Oblivion were one of the bands I randomly stumbled upon several years back when I manually searched through every corner of the archives, originally I don't even think there were any pictures up of their stuff at all. When they finally appeared I remember thinking their logo and hilariously obscure image said enough, these guys had to be the real deal. Hell yeah it is. It took a few more years to find their stuff but it was more than worth it. The Rebirth demo still isn't even listed here officially on MA, but we'll get back to that in a bit.
How to describe Oblivion's style, well it's best to say these guys are straight up blue collar USPM. This is dark, epic, and aggressive in your face stuff with a lot of speed influences. But they're so damn serious and believable it's like they've got Omen's vision with classic Liege Lord's style. Compared to early Liege Lord and the likes however, you'll notice that most of Oblivion's songs here are a bit on the longer side and deservingly so. There's a lot going on in these songs and tons of variety, rhythms and melodies constantly building on top of another for some great memorable conclusions, nothing really traditional at all. Truly epic stuff.
One of the greatest things about Oblivion is hands down vocalist Patrick Brown. Like failsafeman's review below, I too seriously can't come up with any real solid comparisons, although he is a little reminiscent of the obscure Cyperus' demo singer Bruce Roderick, and as many of you may know I'm a huge Cyperus fan, but I'd say Patrick's execution tops Bruce's. A real ace. He's one of those crazy vocalists that almost paints an image of some psychotic wizard spouting about some epic tales of some unknown world or adventures, almost with a hint of some weird accent that really fits. All the more reason why Oblivion are so damn serious. The guy has no problem with range, usually sticking to the mid-higher notes and when his aggression kicks in it's incredible, frantic razor sharp singing that completely dominates gripping you alongside their amazing music.
The production is the only real weak point here, but I don't think it's that bad. Just expect the usual wacky mix, volumes sometimes shift and so on, but it's very audible if you're used to this kind of stuff and you'd be cheating yourself if you skipped over this because of it. The Executioner is a classic opener and right off the bat showcases you're in for something else as the drums slowly crawl in after the intro until the song explodes, possibly comparable to something you'd hear off Griffin or Sacred Oath's debut. Except you can quickly tell Oblivion are a bit darker. This song quickly demonstrates how flawlessly Patrick's vocals ride alongside the music and everything flows together perfectly. I have to give a lot of props to the drummer as well, with Oblivion's complexities this guy is never lost in the shuffle and continually keeps things interesting along with everything else. Battle Warrior is another classy pounding USPM number, with a crazy heavy buildup that majestically evolves into some amazing leads. Winds of War is the more epic piece here with a great chorus, and compared to Helstar's song of the same name (although an almighty song itself, and I realize it's an extremely common song name), it's just further proof of how much darker and serious Oblivion is if you hear them back to back. This demo ends on a very strong note with the gloomier Maidens of the Dungeons. The entire demo is the highlight.
“Serious”, how many times did I say that here? That truly sums up my initial and constant experience with this masterful demo from Oblivion. This is classic USPM to the core. We've been seeing a surge of some classic demo-only bands being picked up lately for some great compilation CD releases and such, and Oblivion should be one of the top choices for USPM purists. I'll keep my eye out for the Rebirth demo, until then if you simply search “Oblivion Rebirth” on youtube you should be able to find a track from that one uploaded there. That song alone is probably further proof that it's another perfect demo and Oblivion were among the best of the best and offered more than enough to stand out on their own. Up there with Cyperus, Dark Age, Sacred Oath, Cauldron Born, Lords of the Crimson Alliance, Griffin, Omen, Liege Lord, Tyrant, etc... if you like 80's USPM then don't miss out on this one.
This is one of those "diamond in the rough" demos people like you and me search through loads of crap to find. It's really a shame the production is so bad; the vocals are nice and up-front, but the instruments all sound like they're made of tinfoil and were recorded in a cave. It's like a black metal production, and a bit of a fight to get past, but once you do the riffs and melodies are well worth it.
The overall approach here is sort of a mish-mash of influences from NWOBHM to speed metal, but a notable comparison to a similar combination is Helstar. Less soloing, more variable tempos, and generally more melancholy, but otherwise they're quite alike; I'd be surprised if Oblivion hadn't been fans. Singer Patrick Brown however could never be mistaken for Rivera, and in fact his voice is a little hard to find good comparisons for. He's got a great powerful voice with a warm tone, a little like Russ North or Paul Davidson maybe, but he can put an aggressive edge to it as well; just listen to him on the speedy opener!
The songs on the demo are all winners. "The Executioner" begins with ye olde pitch-shifted power metal narrative; after that, fucking around ceases and never resumes. A musical intro builds tension until the charge is sounded and we get fast; if this part doesn't get your blood boiling, you are no metalhead. The vocals are very rapid as well: "I SEE THE CIRCLE MADE OF BLOOD FROM THE VICTIMS THAT THEY KILL!" That's like one second. The song is very dynamic though, going through mood shifts, a slow clean section, there's even one riff bit that reminds me of early Samael (probably by accident). "Battle Warrior" and "Maidens of the Dungeons" are more midpaced numbers and both are great, while "Winds of War" is a power ballad. Luckily Oblivion attended Power Metal Ballad 101, following the soft-heavy-soft-heavy format perfectly.
The band's best strength lies in its diversity; each song goes through multiple mood and tempo shifts, ranging from epic to aggressive to mournful. Oblivion can pull off something feral and violent like "The Executioner", go on to the midpaced epic "Battle Warrior", and then turn around and believably portray war as something horrible and lamentable in "Winds of War"! If they could have put out a whole album as good as this demo with a better production, I do not exaggerate when I say it could've been amongst the best USPM had to offer. As it stands, this demo still cements Oblivion as one of the very best USPM demo bands.