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Of Moss and Magic - 95%

GuntherTheUndying, December 28th, 2015

The term ‘medieval metal’ sounds to me like one of those catchphrases that ride alone on a gimmick without any shred of musical dignity (see also: extreme majestic technical epic melodic metal). Obsequiae is the first and last word on this hazy subgenre if it does indeed exist. Obsequiae’s first album, I thought, was an incredible effort finding a natural, unforced balance between black metal and the warmth of lush medieval melodies. “Aria of Vernal Tombs” puts into perspective just how meticulous and detailed the entity of Obsequiae is, as it manages to take the successful foundations of “Suspended in the Brume of Eos” and build upon them with unparalleled astuteness. It possesses the creative and instrumental poise of one of the boldest records to come out in recent times, barking up the tree of a masterpiece.

The spirit of “Suspended in the Brume of Eos” lives in this album, though with more composure; the ‘medieval’ melodies integrated into the melodically-charged roots of black metal create something that is remarkably smooth for such a union. Describing what the group does in practical terms has me walking on eggshells. However, I’ll say I’d describe “Aria of Vernal Tombs” the same way I’d explain Dark Souls to some loser who hasn’t played it yet: its style and themes aren’t per se open-ended, but seamless in a convoluted sense without becoming a tangled mess. Calling the melodies and high-quality riffs images of Dissection or Sacramentum seen through a grassy, meditative lens isn’t necessarily incorrect, but it fails to conceptualize more than a taste of the wide, poignant melting pot that is “Aria of Vernal Tombs.” Obsequiae eclipses words; they need to be experienced to be grasped.

As performers, there is much to admire. The harsh shrieks have grown from “Suspended in the Brume of Eos” and adapt smoothly to the overall sound. The lead guitars are stunning—solos of majestic depth are thrown everywhere, each one carefully crafted and dripping enchantment. Spaced out among the record are brief instrumentals featuring nothing but a medieval harp, and they are absolutely phenomenal. Reflected in its affecting arrangements is the soul of this band, spoken not through harsh vocals or superb melodies but the affecting murmur of an instrument long since forgotten. It’s rare to find interludes that are vital, let alone tolerable, yet the quality of these tracks are as layered and full as the actual songs.

The guest vocal slot on “Orphic Rites of the Mystic” and “In the Absence of Light” filled by Aaron Carey of Nechochwen et al. carries a different brand of shriek from Obsequiae’s usual outputs, which are, needless to say, excellent. Carey has enough nuances in his vocals to divide him from the customary harsh shouts without throwing off the level already set by Obsequiae’s performances. The vocals from whatever source merely stand to replicate the mossy, contemplative melodies and instrumental themes coursing through “Aria of Vernal Tombs” with unmatched guile. You are pretty much doing yourself a huge disservice by ignoring Obsequiae and their incredible interpretation of ‘medieval metal.’ If anything, Obsequiae is really the only band that falls under its banner that doesn’t wield half-assed humor to make up for the chasm of bottomless crap that is the usual standard for this kind of thing.

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