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Obscurant started out as a not too important death metal scene band with Lifeform: Dead, but in 2005 they've hit my five-star rating with First Degree Suicide.
The songs (except for the introduction track, which has a very short, slow keyboard intro) start very dynamically with all instruments immediately on, no boring long keyboard stuff at start. Listening further into the songs, you can find rather addicting varied riffs with some nice tempo changes. In fact, the tempo change varies from doom slowness to some faster melodic death riffs with fitting double bass drums. Guitar parts go along with keyboards nicely; there isn't the "typical keyboard-overloaded melodic death" feeling when only keyboard stuff can be heard with some weak buzzing called guitar. On First Degree Suicide, keyboards are part of the play, weaker or stronger, but never throwing the guitar plays into the background.
Rhythm guitars accompany the solo tracks nicely, they fill the solo parts perfect, and sometimes you can clearly hear the guitars playing some different parts - sometimes different vocals also join up with some echoing varied with changing reverbs - resulting in a very atmospheric feeling. Bass guitars are another positive experience - the distorted bass can be heard throughout, same varied as the rhythm guitar except for it does not play any kind of bass-solo; instead, it follows the rhythm of the song throughout.
About drums - I've found a review not long ago somewhere, where drums were mentioned as dull constant, never changing drum themes - well, if you listen songs from start to end, you can find that drums are constantly changing, even where the tempo is the same, different beats goes by, varied all the time. All the drums can be heard all the time, but they don't weaken other instruments, like bass guitars. Snares and bass drums are not overwhelmed by cymbals like in many bands. In fact, really clear drum plays can be heard throughout the album.
Regarding vocals, mostly the higher harsh vocal takes place, with some varied parts, first that has more operatic-melodic approach with depressed clean vocals and also some aggressive low-growling vocals, nicely mixed throughout the entire album. The clean vocal sounds like a mourning song with stretched words, giving a depressed feeling to the listener. The harsher and more aggressive vocals sometimes have a very fast approach - giving a perfectly sounding opposition.
Most of the songs are about suicide, but nearly everything can be found in the lyrics, worship, afterlife, angels, satan, grief, aloneness, death, redemption at death row, and more. The songs' lyrics are not spread, and it's a really good way to make you buy this release. Only understanding of these songs would worth buying this album for me, not to mention the above described great tracks. The disc and disc covers are also finely designed; the booklet's not a, "band photo on every second page" type crap.
In overall, this album has my personal perfect rating from the over 500 albums I've heard in ambient, death, doom, black, and grind - that's why I've written this review.
I have strong doubts that I would ever hear any album this good.
I've given "just" 95% because Obscurant is still alive, even if since the guitarist and drummer left, the vocal, guitar, and bass player on First Degree Suicide, Luukkainen along with keyboard player Simonen is still seem to continue, and I believe they can still provide the same - or better - songs that on First Degree Suicide.
(corrected the grammar & spelling)
I'm not sure where the perception of Obscurant being a death metal band came from, but it seems pretty false. This Finnish project is pure gothic metal from top to bottom; not a problem by any chance (especially with quality such as this), but certainly different from what I thought I'd be hearing. The sophomore release from Obscurant is professional, well-written gothic metal that can be appreciated by many. And no, there's no Dani Filth, Peter Steele, or teenagers to be found here.
Obscurant's music is defined by mid-tempo pieces with definite, logical melody provided by interplay between guitar and synthesized violin. Drumming is mostly rock-based with the occasional run of tempered double bass, while vocals alternate between black metal rasps and clean passages. The production on this album is very professional and geared towards the mid-range while preserving the integrity of all the instruments, including the bass. The synthesized violin is omnipresent and adds a very enjoyable additional layer to the proceedings.
The atmosphere is one of romantic depression, as to be expected, but it is executed well throughout. The use of layered vocals that slip underneath one another creates a chorus effect that reinforces the themes of each song. And what songs they are: tracks like 'The Redemption' with it's sedated rhythm and pronounced guitars are the core of this album, where the focus is on creating relatively simple songs that are still packed with emotion and a clear love of the music. Honestly, how much more can one ask for?
'First Degree Suicide' probably isn't going to convert anyone that hates gothic metal, but for the more open-minded among us it serves as a rock-solid piece of music that most will enjoy. Nothing new, but a great reinterpretation of the songs of old.
(Originally written for www.vampire-magazine.com)