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For once here is a band who are not afraid to hide their influences in their biography, or in Obscurant's case, the influence. Obscurant's mostly mid-paced and slowish, and as they are Finnish, melancholic yet powerful metal sounds a lot like Hypocrisy have sounded since 'The Fourth Dimension' (1994). Add some Finnish feel à la Eternal Tears Of Sorrow and such bands, and more doleful vibes (e.g. Rapture), there you have Obscurant.
Obscurant began as a one-man project. Soon Mr. Luukkainen had to gather a horde around his musical vision; now the band features guys from Alghazanth, Unveiled and Funeris Nocturnum. Everything is well enough performed, even though I must admit I do not enjoy the synths too much. Sometimes they work better, sometimes they are totally unnecessary, even though they range from synth mat to piano playing. Their general appearance is too cheap, and that usually destroys the atmosphere. The guitar walls are huge and built from simple and loud riffs, with some melodic riffage animating it all, and backed by the trembling bass. The drumming is tight, with a lot of the double kick drumming is heard. No guitar solos hear on this one...
'Ending Life' explodes from the speakers with such energy, that one can't but admire. 'Face the Mirror' shows the band's slower melancholic side with style. 'Symbiosis' is a kicking faster song with total Hypocrisy feeling. 'Destination Lifeless' is another good doleful piece. But when 'Death Declaration' gets even deeper down the funereal feeling, the album kind of stagnates, because the slower material takes over, although not completely (e.g. 'The First Day' still rocks). The songs aren't very happening, and when the same formulas are repeated for 42 minutes, it gets tedious way before the end. I guess this results from the fact, that everything was composed by Luukkainen alone. At least every composition was kept relatively rational in length. Generally I get a feeling that band were very energetic at the beginning, but got bored towards the end (if the songs were at all laid down in order).
The sound is heavy, and the echo adds the feeling of space inside the music, so it does not become too suffocating. I have no real gripes about the production. The vocals are varying from different growls (death and more blackish styles) to good, loud clean singing. Luukkainen does everything and his clean vocals remind me of Solefald's clean vocals. The lyrics are about suicide, killing and desolate thoughts, I guess, since they aren't printed wholly, except for just some lines. The cover art is made out of lame photos with graphical effects added.
Worth investigating if Hypocrisy and mid-paced death metal with melancholic touch is your stuff. I'm in the target group, but still I find this taking too deep a nod towards the doleful side. But thankfully it is melancholic with balls. As for the debut album, 'Lifeform: Dead' is good enough, but partly just too similar, ending up being repeating already used ideas. So, partly very promising, but the worthy material could have been released on the EP format. Hopefully they do not lose their death metal in the future, because that's what keeps Obscurant's music breathing. Life through death?!
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2003)
I have no recollection of actually purchasing this album, but the CD case has a $5 price tag on the side of it, from a CD exchange store nearby. Unfortunately, that was about $4.50 more than this garbage is worth.
In an age where originality is harder to find than a worthwhile song on the radio, and useless clones of much more talented Scandinavian extreme music acts run rampant, I suppose I really shouldn't be as disappointed as I am with this album. I suppose I got my hopes up with the similarities between this album's title, and the phenomenon that is Diagnose: Lebensgefahr, and with the filth to be found on this CD, disappointment is to be expected if not embraced, no matter what one expects coming into the album.
As other listeners have mentioned, Obscurant's "Lifeform: Dead" is nothing more (but so much less) than a cheap Hypocrisy ripoff, right down to the pointless clean vocals and obnoxious attempt at sounding symphonic. Luukkainen's vocal talent has done nothing short of completely disappear since his regrettable (although after hearing this, perhaps "fortunate" would be a better word) departure from Alghazanth. Rare indeed are harsh vocals this generic and forced-sounding. Not an ounce of feeling is to be found here, no matter where one looks - certainly not in the aforementioned clean passages, which do nothing but bring the music down deeper into the hole it digs itself.
The drums are, surprisingly for a death metal act, slow beyond reason, but at least the man knows how to play his instrument. Not so, for "Rautio", the so-called guitarist. I've heard far better perfomances from live teenagers at local battle-of-the-bands-type affairs, and I'm not exaggerating. You can hear the man falling all over his instrument despite the fact that this is a studio album, and as a result, he had not only a soundboard on his side, but as many mulligans as he'd like. What he does try to play, however, is easily recognizeable as cheap knockoffs of every rehashed riff Hypocrisy has ever put out. The bass is not necessarily bad, so much as it is completely irrelevant and unnoticeable, and there is nothing to say about it, as a result.
All in all, Obscurant's debut is nothing more than garbage Hypocrisy worship. At best, it's an overly-accessible catchy piece of easy listening for the hard-of-hearing melo-death fan. Not recommended, at all.