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The new venture of former Enslaved guitarist Roy Kronheim, Obscure have chosen a distinctly different path to that of the black/viking/prog pioneers, instead exploring their founder’s apparent love for traditional and stoner-doom metal. ‘On formaldehyde’ is their self-financed debut and offers a diverting, and quite varied, selection of songs with a mixture of influences worn proudly on the sleeve.
Kronheim is also the vocalist, and seems to subscribe to the Albert Witchfinder school of thought that just because you’re not from England doesn’t mean you can’t sing with a ridiculous Received Pronunciation accent. The microphone histrionics are a big part of the charm, and along with the mightily thick guitar tone maintain the stoner-doom vibe even on the songs that are in direct defiance of the style.
“Veins of steel” is one such effort, a raucous galloper – and the most upbeat song I’ve heard about heroin in a while - with a superb solo duel in the middle (backed only by bass) and an infectious chorus that arrives only at the thundering conclusion of the song. Opener “Conversensation” and the closing “Abaraxas”, beginning on what isn’t far from a punk riff, also weigh in on the more upbeat side of things.
Aside from the dueling solos, there are also some choice harmony sections that strongly invoke Thin Lizzy, and by the time a storming rendition of the Irish legends’ “Massacre” rolls around as the 2nd to last song it seems like the most logical thing in the world. Kronheim’s vocals are of course quite dramatically different to those of Phil Lynott, and Obscure manage to put their own stamp on the original without doing it any sort of disservice.
The first venture into sprawling, nightmarish doom comes 4th in the tracklist with “Abra macabra”, which is followed by the massive, spacey title track. Going in true Sabbath fashion from a hazy, in-your-own-time first half to a raging metal salvo for its conclusion, “On formaldehyde” is a flawless, textbook example of the style, and pick of the bunch when it comes to the more loosely-structured songs here.
The variance continues throughout between short, punchy songs and the longer, drawn-out tempo-shifters and keeps the listener guessing (at least on the first few listens) as to exactly what is about to come next. The variety is among the biggest selling points for ‘On formaldehyde’, and should make the CD accessible to a wider audience, even those not normally interested in doom metal.
A couple of the songs don’t reach the same heights as the above mentioned top dogs and stop the CD from being a truly superb debut overall, but as a starting point it is most definitely a success and suggests Obscure will have a lot more to offer as time goes by. A thoroughly charming debut with a lot going in its favour, ‘On formaldehyde’ is most definitely worthy of your time.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)