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Top Album of 2015! - 95%

NeillBird, June 3rd, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, 20 Buck Spin (Digipak)

Black/dark metal standouts Obsequiae already had a home-run of a debut record entitled Suspended In The Brume Of Eos back in 2011. That album combined beautiful instrumental tracks with some expertly played black metal-esque tracks. Coming back after a long hiatus, this Minnesota trio is ready to once again show that they are a top act in the underground scene with their second album, (and 20 Buck Spin debut), Aria Of Vernal Tombs. With even more musical story telling and precise playing by all members, this record not only outdoes the prior effort, but has outdone a lot of records released this year.

The opening harp intro is one of the more fantastical pieces the band has composed, and sets the table wonderfully for the record to come. The images of the Middle Ages and King Author immediately come to mind, which is just furthered by the stunning artwork. Once the second track begins, the album undertakes an incredible journey though the lands, and shows song after song why this act is among the top in the genre. The guitars feel brighter than the debut record, which fits the music and feeling quite well here. There is an airiness to the music, and especially in the vocals due to the very noticeable echo. Technically speaking, the band has not let up in anyway, with the guitars conjuring up some incredibly catchy riffs, and utterly beautiful harmonies and licks. The drumming never gets out of hand, choosing to stay in more of a mid-pace or even slower at times. The bass can feel somewhat thin, but still adds a wonderful layer to the music and helps the record maintain a groove all its own. The third track, “Until All Ages Fall” is a perfect example of these elements, and also happens to be a personal standout track on this opus along with the closer.

There are still instrumental tracks on this sophomore release as well, and those too feel more thought-out and narrative-like. The harp continues to make appearances in these shorter tracks, and add some amazing atmosphere while showcasing some very proficient playing. Despite the slower nature of these pieces, they never feel out of place and come off as traditional sounding Middle Age songs. The instrumental works just add to the aesthetic of the band that much more. Not only do these pieces compliment the record as a whole, but they are some of the better works in the band’s catalogue.

As mentioned before, the vocals are quite echo-y, which makes one pay attention to the production and mixing on the record. While certainly not raw in the sense of sounding like a home recording, there is still a nice natural feeling to Aria. These three men are able to capture the aura they want in their music, and push forward their tales through some airy music, while not needing to destroy the listener with such a clean saccharine sound. The mixing is possibly the only slight flaw of the record, as it would be nice to get a little more bass but the overall quality of the music presented here speaks so well for itself that a slight lack of bass is a very minor gripe.

Obsequiae have created an album that is filled to the brim with passion and mystical imagery. One listen will have the listener hooked, while repeated spins will truly show that this is a trio of immense talent. The well thought-out and paced songwriting, the flow of the album from the heavier to the soft and back, and the utter brilliance of the closing track make Aria Of The Vernal Tomb an easy recommendation. Melodic without being cheesy or "gaze-y" and with enough wizardry to please technical fans, this second release stands as having something for most everyone, and this is one of the easiest listening experiences I have had in quite some time. Expect to hear more about this record throughout the year.

Originally written for The Metal Observer
http://www.metal-observer.com/3.o/review/obsequiae-aria-of-vernal-tombs/