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Truly dungeon-esque USPM - 90%

Jophelerx, March 8th, 2013

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.