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Hard-to-Classify Heavy Music - 80%

LefterisK, February 4th, 2013

To be honest, I didn’t know OBSIDIAN KINGDOM prior to this review and I have to say that I was totally caught off guard as I was expecting something completely different, and by that I mean that they kindly blew me out of the water. OBSIDIAN KINGDOM is a music project hailing from Barcelona and what we have here is their ambitious debut album, entitled ‘Mantiis'. Unfolding the band’s components’ in its fullest, the maturity in song-writing and performing is quite obvious, they lead us outside the boundaries of extreme music with this bizarre, interesting piece . This conceptual album features a single song divided into fourteen sections which flow through different genres, something which fits the band’s description quite well as they characterize themselves as ‘hard-to-classify heavy music with plenty of contrast’.

Diving into the album now, the curtain falls in silence with ‘Not Yet Five’, only to be interrupted by an ongoing droning sound until the rest of the instruments gradually join in. ‘Not Yet Five’ might be considered just a plain intro by some, but to me it’s one of the greatest songs on the album, creating an uncertain feel of abandonment and loneliness, emotions and memories that you wish they were real again. As the band has already set the mood for something presumingly heavy and dark, the unexpected strum of an acoustic guitar marks the beginning of ‘Oncoming Dark’. As we process further into ‘Mantiss’, we slowly get into OBSIDIAN KINGDOM’s mindset, the guitar riffs are starting to make their apperance, the atmosphere becomes more and more tense, it seems like the songs were building up just to explode, especially ‘Cinnamon Balls’ which simple yet heavy and crushing riffing, is exactly the climax of the three previous songs. Although the acoustic or mellower songs are more present in numbers, the emphasis of the album is leaning towards the composition as a whole. The overall record is very smooth and relaxing but has the necessary amount of outbursts, producing a rich and varied musical outcome. The main features of ‘Mantiis’ are the fuse of multiple sounds , from serene acoustic guitar passages underlined by some really interesting piano lines to the heavily distorted paroxysms that are not far from a black metal aesthetic, portraying a wide range of emotions. The composition and the orchestration is focused and everything seems to be well-thought of and neatly executed. The band is not afraid to follow its insticts and experiment and the result is of course astonishing and rewarding.

From there, it seems that we return to OBSIDIAN KINGDOM’s familiar formula with songs like ‘The Nurse’ and ‘Answers Revealing’, but the unexpected element strikes back once again with ‘Last of the Light’, which begins with a black metal-sounding structure, evolving into a rather jazzy solo section with the song closing in a circle just like the way it started. ‘Haunts of the Underworld’ is next and the title couldn’t be more fitting as it’s definitely a haunting yet calming rendition of a trip to the underworld. This atmospheric, disconsolate passage gives way to a powerful instrumental section but it’s not until ‘Endless Wall’ that all hells break loose with its uneartlhy, ferocious vocals and its continuous flashes of heavy guitar chords that crop up here and there, ludicrously tight and heavy until the song slides into the tranquil and mysterious ‘Fingers in Anguish’. Every song is so consistently tied to each other, definitely serving its purpose as 'Mantiis' embarks the listener in this strange musical journey. It does feel like a cohesive work indeed. My only concern would be that the songs could be fewer and lenghtier but it’s more of a personal preference as the band has consciously divided the album into fourteen different pieces, also the album doesn’t get tiring at all, in fact it’s just 47 minutes long.

To make a long story short, I would like to add that ‘Mantiis’ is a record that intrigues the senses with each song from start to finish. A satisfying performance that fuses so many different genres and emotions yet binding them together without sounding out of place. On the contrary, the songs are memorable and fresh the more one listens to them. OBSIDIAN KINGDOM gladly offer their diversified musical capabilities in order to illustrate a wide variety of musical landscapes, ranging from quiet despair to utter violence. This is what 'Mantiis' is all about, a great artistic exposure of feelings and experiences. This is an agony in fourteen bites, as the album sub-title indicates. Take it...