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Here is a review which allows plunging back into an album from the mid 90’s. But don’t be fooled by this album's age. It has stood the test of time and the fact that it can be listened to regularly after many years is a sign of its quality. This review intends to defend the band against those who feel it’s just “another typical death metal project” and that it lacks originality; it also intends to try to get Obscenity more wide-spread recognition, since they still seem pretty obscure, despite all those years serving the art of extreme metal. But we’re starting to stray away from the main subject.
If you’re reading this review in search of the line containing “it reminds me of [fill the blank with whatever occurs to you]”, then you will waste your time. Such a comparison cannot be made, since one of the main highlights of this opus is its uniqueness. Of course one could say “they didn’t bring anything new”; But remember the following metaphor: a great painting is not great because the artist invented a new colour. For those familiar with DM, you will find many usual aspects pieced together into a brand new puzzle; for those who are not, keep reading.
Concerning the production, you have a very fair compromise between “covers the entire human auditory range” and “you could hear a fly at the other end of the room.” It’s in the vein of Swedish productions. All the drum elements are well balanced with a very natural hit and resonance (how wonderful the world was before triggers…). Guitars are at the same time granular and precise, allowing you to savour the throat-cutting, asphalt-crushing rhythms and the sick harrowing end-of-the-world melodic solos and leads. The voice may be considered slightly overmixed by some, but since the singer has a rich pallet of harmonics for his guttural growls and he articulates pretty fairly, it is evident that his presence is impressive. As for the bass, any trained ear can clearly make out its fundamental contribution to how the album sounds, especially in the slower parts.
"3rd Chapter" seems good aesthetically, however, is the actual musical content equally successful? Obscenity are neither ultra-technical, nor hyper-speed, nor way beyond brutal, but are talented and well inspired. Each member has mastered their instruments well enough to produce personal subtleties within the whirling chaos of their dark and aggressive music. The songs never get boring. Most of them are more then 4:30 long and are an impressive achievement in songwriting. It’s not just because all the instruments have nice variations on their walk so you don’t notice the repetitions, but also because of the great effort made in how the different riffs are put together and all the original ways Obscenity has found to exploit them; some examples will be given further on.
The drumming is really awesome because it alternates blastbeat, breaks and rolls with great ease and coherence. A lot of appreciable details (like cymbals fills and kick drum adds) can be found here and there to reward the careful listener with colourful rhythms. Sometimes it even seems like you can hear a bass line out of it. While we’re at it, there is no need to lash out at the bass player’s lack of creativity. If the bass mostly follows the guitarwalk, it’s simply because there is no bassist here; it was recorded by one the band’s guitarist (Jens Finger). This, perhaps, may be the only drawback of the album. But it doesn’t look like they had any choice…
Almost every imaginable type of rhythmic guitar part is used throughout the album. They range from slow mid-tempo thrash inspired wrist hits to violent fast notes. They can be very basic, including slides, palm-muting, semi-harmonics, sweeping even, but are always effective. Many times, they are intentionally made simple and thus give emphasis to the music as a whole. They are a very good balance between brutal and melodic.
The solos are also incredible. They have such good feeling. You can’t get tired of them, one because they are never too long, and two because they are far more emotional, unique guitar lines than a technical show-off (NO to Playstation guitar-heroes!!!). There are more leads than solos actually, but they have the same characteristics; an oppressive, forbidding feeling and they are sized just properly to fit into the global architecture of the music. Sometimes, there are discrete atmospheric fills during the vocals. As for the vocals, Some positive comments were made three paragraphs earlier. There is little to add, except that there are also a few more high-pitched screams here and there to back up the deep grunts or just for the pleasure of change.
A big surprise awaits you on the first track: some clean female vocals. Don’t be scared, they don't sound silly. She has a dark colourful voice and although she doesn’t have as much natural presence as Oliver Jauch, she gives something extra to the song's ambiance. That also reinforces the lyrical theme well (to hear more about it watch the interview on the Whipped, Raped...Obscene VHS).
Lyrics are a huge advantage to Obscenity as well. They always manage to treat real subjects in a concrete way rather than just vaguely evoking some abstruse fantasy; the themes are often psychologically violent and can make one uneasy, but are not outrageously gorey in an aimless sense. Furthermore, the lyrics seem to contain strong viewpoints that always produce an intense reaction to their subject matter, making you contemplate them in your own terms. This description may seem esoteric itself… So here are two samples (N.B. my interpretation is of course somehow subjective). “Abducted and Gutted” denounces how people in positions of power take advantage of those helpless against them for personal benefits [Health obtained by disembowelling – Children bodies abused as a spare parts store] while “Tarot” points out the fear of indecision in oneself, a fear compensated for by a reliance on outside elements to lead the way [Personality replaced by symbols – A room with one exit – I was a stranger to myself]
To illustrate how Obscenity can construct a song, let’s take “Still Alive”. It starts with a fast D-beat and some nice shredded rhythms, followed by a brief bridge made of pull-offs, leading to the brutal verse of the song. There is a melodic part in the riff, so everytime it shows, it allows the drums to do something else than mere blastbeat. That melodic part will then buckle up four times on itself, with an appropriate variation, permitting a return to the intro riff. After that you expect the song will follow the same pattern? Well, no. Right in your face, the kick drum breaks in. A death/thrashy groove comes in with some flayed vocals, going into an exquisite duo of voices. The riff lets itself flow and goes on a bit so the guitar can be really appreciated. “Still alive” rears out of the abyss of melodies. A nice trick from the drummer, he lets go the snare drum a bit and fills with feet variations. Back to an old school death verse. The drummer shines again with well placed accelerations. Melodic cut offs come and go in the overall crushing. A half lead/half solo over some mid-tempo chords and constructed drums. Growl fill. On to a familiar riff, “Still alive!!!” Verse. Mid song riff again with blasts. “Still alive!!!”, wait it ends here, four minutes have flown away??? (time, what is time…)
This album is indubitably a valuable gem. I have converted a few who cared enough to listen carefully to worship this band. Hopefully, you will become one of those people too. And to those wondering: it is equally good live (from my experience).