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Like a lumbering leviathan reawakened from an eternity of slumber, set free from its icy chains from chasms deep and mysterious - Vassafor rears its ugly head to crush once more. Forgiving the obvious Lovecraftian tones of this article, it is simply the imagery that Vassafor's debut full-length 'Obsidian Codex' gives; the image of a gargantuan beast hauled upwards through torturous depths, up from the sewers of the world and into the torturous light - only to swallow it whole in it's own monstrous and ugly darkness. In short, this is one of the darkest, unsettling and evillest records I have ever heard and I'll explain why.
As I mentioned before, this record has a very uncomfortable, unsettling feeling to it. To evoke Lovecraft again, it's as if there's something not quite right, something abhorrently 'against nature' yet something altogether ancient like Lovecraft's 'Old Ones'. There are some bizarre riffs which form haunting melodies that for all intents and purposes, are being summoned by VK's possessed mind. I also note that the man behind 'Ritual Noise' project Vanargandr works behind the scenes on the record, which supplements VK's vision of bizarre, uncomfortable-ness. Yet with this uncomfortable-ness, also comes a sense of triumphant-ness as I previously stated the darkness swallowing the light in defiant glee.
The music itself, as always with Vassafor, is highly creative and you can tell that VK has put a lot of time and effort into perfecting each composition, each part of a song with careful and meticulous care to his highest standard. The riffs ooze with black filthy sludge and they leave their dirty imprint on you for days long after. Interesting too is you can hear VK's influences permeate throughout the tracks yet rather than being a mere imitator, he has surpassed the originators of the style. For instance some tracks have a strong 'Beherit - Drawing Down the Moon' theme which I know can be trendy for 'Bestial' bands to do these days. The exception with Vassafor is that it captures that atmosphere completely - and outdoes it. With the doomier parts (which by the way are prevalent throughout and if you are not a fan of funeral doom then this may not be for you) you will hear elements of Thergothon, Skepticism and Bethlehem. On other tracks (particularly on Makutu - Condemned to Deepest Depths) you hear elements of the ritual-invoking and melodic riffage of Inquisition, early Rotting Christ, Varathron and Zemial. Obsidian Codex outdoes its masters and raises the benchmark for Evil Metal. Period.
More on the overall structure of the songs though. I mentioned that there are funeral doom-esque parts to the songs; these seem to melt and dissolve into rabid fast or mid-paced parts and then back into doomier territory but without sounding confused or lost. The structure of the songs sound very natural and purposeful - again a credit to VK's meticulous high standard of song-writing. You may also notice that a few of the songs have been recorded previously on other demo or promo releases. These songs have been almost being given a new visioning and although they sounded great on their previous releases - they have been given new 'life' on this record and really complement the album as a whole.
The production on the album complements the music perfectly. The vocals are just buried under the guitar, creating an effect of hidden menace underlying the music. It also, however channels the music and provides a dark current, seething underneath. The bass is bludgeoning and very present on the record - making an escape from traditional black metal records and more in-line with the bestial metal of the current years. The drums are restrained in the mix but I suspect this is purposeful as the drums are only there to provide the relevant artillery and retain the barbaric beat. BP (from fellow New Zealand feral Death/Grind band Malevolence) does a great job at this and his work is to be commended.
I'd like to comment on the lyrics but unfortunately VK has not included the lyrics for this release. Judging by his past releases and the care/judgement he puts into the music itself; I expect nothing short of the darkest thoughts penned since Jon Nodveit. I would like to point out for readers that are not from New Zealand or not familiar with the Maori (indigenous people of New Zealand) language. Makutu is the Maori word for a curse, spell or bewitchment which also demonstrates VK's homage to New Zealand and its barbaric past. Furthermore on this track in particular, no guitars were used but two basses. I had the pleasure of witnessing this track live when Vassafor opened for Inquisition in 2012, and I have to say unfortunately the album track does not do it justice. It was an absolute crushing wall of noise that suffice to say, if you get the chance to see Vassafor live - pray they play that song and pray you have the good fortune that you have the best earplugs and are furthest from the speakers when they play it. You will not survive the onslaught of noise otherwise.
Lastly, the only negative I can pull from this full-length is the artwork. I get that it's meant to be a sludgey, filthy, demonic creation, pulled from the depths of humanity but I do not think the artwork was as effective or as striking as the music therein contains. Regardless, if artwork is stopping you from listening to an album then you should probably kill yourself.
My final words on the album would be despite its length (it's a Double LP with an approximate hour and a half running time), it's a mesmerising album that pulls you in and you forget that time exists. The production is very analog so if you are listening to a download of this then you will miss the full experience of this album. Get the vinyl - it will serve you better.
People were right about the end of the world being in 2012 except they had the date wrong. It was December the 6th, 2012 when the Obsidian Codex was released. Buy this record now.
Praise Satan - Hail Vassafor!
666 stars out of 5.
[Originally posted on Subcide Webzine - http://subcide-webzine.blogspot.co.nz/2013_02_01_archive.html]