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Underground Death Metal Obscenity - 87%

SwankMetalSwag, August 31st, 2020

While 2020 wages war on our collective minds, pushing itself closer and closer to catastrophe, the underground death metal scene seems to thrive greater than ever. The Indiana death metal outfit Obscene cashes in on the time home for quarantine to produce a great debut full length record. With any first release, there are some flaws that are to be discussed but, overall, it is a record that is extremely nostalgic. It is very easy to sense the influences of Obituary, Cannibal Corpse, and other 90s death metal bands. However, this is not a one dimensional listen. Though it is clearly the riff heavy, blast centered death metal that persuades headbangers everywhere, the listener will also discover bits of black metal through the vocals and often tremolo picked guitars, thrashy styled quick paced guitar solos with harmonies, and even doomy chugs assuredly to strike fear into the weak-hearted.

The recent explosion of old school styled death metal has honestly produced lackluster, cookie-cutter music that tends to bleed from track to track without providing much differentiation. However, the refreshing thing about this record is its seperation of each track. The curse of this genre is the temptation to write repetitive tracks that have no artistic expression, dynamics, or experimentation. Obscene does a fantastic job of allowing the classic death metal elements to be there, without the bland banalization that permeates throughout the genre. This is achieved through a number of different avenues. Primarily, there is a distinct element of each track. The first track "Without Honor or Humanity" is a very fast, tremoloed, and blasting onslaught that grips the listener, but that is vastly different from the last title track with is more sluggish and heavy handed. Each track seems to have a distinct quality that seperates it from the other tracks, successfully escaping the temptation of bland death metal.

Obscene has many defining qualities that make this debut record an exciting promise for the future of the outfit. Primarily, there are quality riffs that can compete with the most brutal breakdowns in the death metal canon. My personal favorite is towards the end of "Isolated Dumping Grounds" where the guitarist tremolos his way down a brutal riff and the drummer compliments it with a easy-going grove to push the listener to bang their head. This leads me to my next point in that the band is tight and seems to operate and bounce off of each other well. It makes a night and day difference between a band that is well put together than a band trying to vie for the spotlight or having internal differences. The rhythmic compliments of the bass, drummer, and guitars make for both a euphoric listening expereince and stank face worthy phrases. The highlight of the album, in this reviewer's personal and probably controversial opinion, are the gutteral, unintelligable, crazy distorted vocals. It's simultaneously shrieky black metal as well as raw death metal. The vocalist finds a strange middle ground between his influences. Though a stark contrast from the low and powerful guitars, it make for a great compliment. The vocalist also adds in battle worthy "oo"'s and other such ad libs that mimic the great metal acts of yesteryear. The power behind the voice was one of the first things that drew me to listen to this band and this record and, for that, I felt obligated to laud vocalist on his ability to grip a listener.

Despite the largely praiseworthy record, there are some flaws that deserve attention. The primary criticism are the guitars. Though there are some great highlights and powerful riffs throughout the record, they are a piece of the band that is least dynamic. There is very little variety in their playing and, though the songwriting creates the main dynamics of the album, the guitars come short on meeting the same merit. Though underground death metal records almost embrace having relatively poor sound quality, there is a large emptiness that I personally wish there was more of from the bass player. The bass has always been the unsung hero of metal music. It provides this gutteral foundation upon which the rest of the band builds. However, it rarely shines in this record. Mixing the bass in tandem with the guitars and drums would make this record pop all the more. With any first record, there are tracks that shine and others that fall short. Some are more legible and brilliant, others can get muddy and lost.

Nevertheless, flaws on a first record are more hopeful than they are damaging. The next test is the sophomore record. This record is following a small EP from 2017, therefore it is logical to think that they had three or more crafting this record to try and cement themselves as a contender in the underground metal scene. In this reviewer's opinion, they created a well-rounded, multifaceted, and mildly flawed record that needs space and work. This album could be a excellent springboard to bounce them into metal glory, or a peak by which they simply fall downhill. Only time will tell.