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The Tree of Life - 80%

MushroomStamp, December 21st, 2009

My initial thoughts on this Obtest album were ”can it get any more mediocre?” – yet, for some reason, I kept returning to it. There is very little on display that immediately hooks the listener, except maybe the catchy chorus bit of the first track. The music in question conglomerates a variety of styles – traditional heavy metal, black metal, some folk, and even a bit of thrashy aggression – without falling under any precise genre tag. It is hard to tell where the BM sound ends and heavy metal begins because the band has, over the years, become very adept at fusing these influences together seamlessly. The work is so devoid of typical genre clichés that this further complicates classification.

It takes time to get acquainted to the overall soundscape. The good impression is made over a span of a dozen listens, and undoubtedly many listeners will never get that far. In a world full of music, why invest your time in this? One reason would be the careful and surprisingly intricate songwriting style. If I were to summarize Obtest, I would bluntly call it the band that creates good songs out of mediocre riffs. On their own, many of the ideas in the songs are either palpably bad or merely forgettable, but when fused with the right things before and after, simple power chord strumming is suddenly the most wondrous thing in the world. This happens a lot on Gyvybes Medis and is often complemented with tasteful lead guitars and solos which add tremendously to the atmosphere of the album.

Although I briefly mentioned folk in the opening paragraph, and even though the band is often lumped under the eerily vague “pagan metal” quasi-genre, it must be stressed that Obtest is light years away from the Finntroll lot. Melody on the album is entirely based on guitars, with no synths or native instruments used, and as I previously hinted, the stylistic mix is so tightly woven that there are no overt campfire moments. This is not like Arkona (Rus) who manage to use approx. 75 variations of that same “Perun’s Celestial Silver” intro riff on every album and make a career out of it. Beating that dead horse is so commonplace nowadays in “folk” metal that it warrants special attention if a band does not do it.

If I were to mention one negative aspect about Gyvybes Medis, it would have to be the vocals. They deliver a good raspy sound somewhere halfway between black metal gurgling and plain singing, but the monotony turns somewhat irritating during the course of 43 minutes. The vocalist never takes a turn towards a more evil sound, nor does he stray into clean vocal territory except at a few odd spots. This is either a bad compromise or simple indifference about vocal arrangements.

Despite the dull vocals, I recommend this to anyone with a spare week on their hands.

A huge leap for this band - 95%

autothrall, October 29th, 2009

The pride of Lithuanian pagan metal returns for their fourth album, a monstrous effort which is not only their magnum opus, but the best straight folk metal album I've heard this year. This is a huge leap for the band, their previous albums weren't even remotely this professional and memorable, and it marks their transition to the Osmose Productions roster, who evidently agree upon the talent of the band in this new direction.

Obtest has evolved from blacker roots into what I can only describe as pagan/folk speed metal. The riffs involve fast, charging riffs endowed with catchy melodies and the native lyrics of Baalberith. "Apeigos" starts things right with its hypnotic leads and an amazing melody beneath the chorus. "Vedlys" features another fast paced, triumphant sounding melody with pagan gang vocals and a ripping bridge section. "Sviesa" picks up things even more with a pure, classic speed metal intro and then some swelling charge riffs over the great vocals. The title track is the first to slow it down a little, another engaging melody engraves the song immediately into memory. "Sakalo Vaikai" gives the impression of melodic power metal throughout, but the vocals bring it back to Obtest. The rest of the songs are quite fast as well, except the closer "Ikaitai" which is glorious and melodic but more of a driving mid pace.

The style here really helps Obtest stand out from the ever crowding pagan/folk metal scene. They've got a vibrant and uplifting style to them which never treads on the ground the usual suspects (Finntroll, Thyrfing, Moonsorrow, etc) have already tread. Blazing and victorious, the band never requires an excess of complexity to their music because what they compose is simple and extremely catchy. The production of the album is fantastic, nothing over the top but you can clearly pick out everything you'd like to hear. It's a shame I have yet to translate the lyrics, but I'd love to read them, and hope they'll be as endearing as the rest of the album.

Gyvybës Medis is a superb and original folk metal album which has excited me amidst a sea of stale, samey sounding albums which rely on flighty, silly folk nuance rather than truly embracing an ethnic feel and raging with it. Obtest succeed with flying colors and have earned a spot atop the heap of pagan metal hopefuls. Cannot wait to hear what they do next, as this is a favorite for me this year!

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Obtest - Gyvybes Medis - 85%

UCTYKAH, June 11th, 2008

I followed the band from the start and must say that the black metal label is not really appropriate for Obtest. While on “Tukstantmetis” the band still operated with black metal elements, they were gone by the time “Auka Seniems Dievams” came around. The “pagan ideology = black metal music” formula does not really apply here. While the heroic, battle atmosphere and fortitude posturing unmistakably point towards militant pagan role-playing, the band use what is basically a fusion of thrash metal riffs and power metal melodies all wrapped up into romantic tales of ancient, pre-xstian glory. That formula came to full bloom on the band’s third album “Is Kartos A Karta”. Obtest keep things pretty simple and down to earth (nothing too brutal or complex), which makes them quite a charming proposition. The new album “Gyvybes Medis” unsurprisingly continues right where “Karta” left off. It’s a quality album for sure and easily recommended to the band’s fan base or those that are curious. Good catchy choruses, cool melodic leads, energetic delivery, glorious atmosphere - it’s all here. What worries me, of course, is what the boys will do next. Another record of this sort may easily spell the word “stagnation”. Not that I want them to go all modern. Whatever old-school spirit they possess should be kept. Nevertheless, the band should carefully consider their next step because the crossroads have been reached.