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A Very Distinctive Sound - 90%

GreatHarrower, February 29th, 2008

Obombrid Welkins is a rather bizarre take on metal; it's use of a drum machine is put to unique and good effect and the guitars are swarming and sharp-sounding, covering the mix in a blanket of murk. The tempo of the album is consistently plodding and somewhat hypnotic, and bizarrely enough the first song is accompanied by some elderly scholar giving a speech on African dictatorships. Several other songs have incomprehensible muttering in the background, and the effect is surprisingly sinister.

As to where this music fits in within the boundaries of Black Metal, I would say that this music has more ingenuity than most of the Xasthur albums although the two bands don't sound very similar. It is easier to lose oneself in this music and not get bored with it; it drones on and the drums give it a ritualistic quality that is haunting and dare I say catchy.

All the tracks are of high quality, the first two by far contain the most memorable guitar riffing and both feature vocals. A recommended release for the open-minded who are sometimes ambiently oriented.

Black / death metal fusion with poor drumming - 67%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, February 21st, 2007

For this album the Benighted Leams project has bulked up to two people, guitarist Alex Kurtagic who heads BL and the Supernal Records label and newbie Wulfhild who wrote most of the lyrics and also plays guitar. Between them, they've got a very solid and beefy black metal guitar style which is verging on a higher-pitched death metal style, and often they sound like twenty guitarists playing note for note together instead of just two people! There is a strong flowing quality to the music and in some of the earlier tracks the riffs and melodies have a distinctive flavour; on the other hand, the fact that the BL people have a more obvious musical style means that some of the project's original quirkiness has probably gone and what remains is in the titles and lyrics. I'm not familiar with earlier BL albums but I've heard rumours about uneven sound which had a habit of disappearing suddenly and then reappearing just as abruptly plus levels of shaky musicianship. The only really shaky element I can find here is the drumming (done with a drum machine) which is not varied and seems a bit slow for the fast flowing music which has a latent aggression and sinister bent that fast and varied natural drumming by a human could bring out.

An early stand-out track is "Wraith of Winter Haven" which is the only track to have anything close to a lead guitar break and features melodies with a mediaeval folk feel. The instrumental piece "The Fame of a Dead Man's Deeds" has spoken word samples of speeches and statements by the American white nationalist William Pierce (died 2002) whose photo features in the CD booklet; not surprisingly, a lot of these samples are quite offensive and unsavoury especially at the end when the music fades out before the speeches do and you can hear Pierce woffling on about Ugandan people and cannibalism.

Kurtagic himself is vocalist on most tracks though his own mostly spoken vocals are practically drowned out by the guitar barrage. That's a real pity as his vocal style is deep and a bit like the Scottish actor Sean Connery's voice with a less obvious accent, one of the few things that keep BL firmly in the wacky black metal camp. In later tracks like "Obombrid Welkins" and "Kevin MacDonald's Theory of Eurocentrism as a Grand Evolutionary Strategy", you hardly hear Kurtagic's voice much though it's possible that not all the lyrics you see in the CD booklet made the final cut that went on CD. (I hate it when that happens.) Kurtagic is probably at his best on "There Descends a Nauseating Dampness" and "Alopaecia" (about a topic which must be the unspoken dread of metalheads, male and female, everywhere) where you can actually follow what he's saying much of the time.

As the album progresses, the music becomes more straightforward death-influenced black metal with catchy tunes: probably not what long-time BL fans are hoping for. By this point, Kurtagic's vocals have pretty much drowned in the layers of guitar apart from a few small bits that manage to escape the storm. The last track "Alopaecia" (ah, that horrible word!) perks up the interest level thanks to its subject matter (it's about hair loss leading to baldness in case you haven't picked up the hints), a very rare ambient break and Kurtagic's vocals which now include a groan but the music is starting to sound like generic blackened death metal or deathened black metal, whichever you prefer, with tunes that could more or less be interchanged with tunes on tracks 4 and 5.

This album could well serve as a beginner's guide to the Benighted Leams project. Apart from this, if you're a long-time fan of Kurtagic's project, you might want to download a few tracks first if you can before deciding whether you should get this album. If done by any other band, I'd say the music is consistently good and the level of musicianship is confident and not at all shaky but because we are talking about the Benighted Leams, I suspect some individuality has been lost and the music seems to be moving towards a black / death metal fusion that could almost appeal to a mainstream commercial audience.

The CD booklet includes band photos plus photos of the aforementioned William Pierce and the controversial American evolutionary psychologist Kevin MacDonald whose theories are the subject of a song on this album and have led to charges that he is anti-Semitic.