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Subradiant Songwriting - 50%

CrimsonFloyd, June 26th, 2012

Other than sci-fi novelists, no one loves creating series as much as black metal bands. From Darkthrone’s “Unholy Trinity” to Ulver’s “Norwegian Trilogy” to the more recent trilogies of Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, three seems to be the magic number for black metal series. New England newcomers Obsidian Tongue are the latest black metal band to undertake creating a series, entitling their debut, Volume I: Subradiant Architecture. However, if this series is ever to reach Volume III, Obsidian Tongue is going to need to step up its act. Subradiant Architecture is a mild-mannered, heavily derivative piece of black metal that does little to get the listener excited for the sequel.

Obsidian Tongue is working with the basic Norwegian black metal framework: tremolo riffs, raspy growls and blast beats galore. There are numerous jazzy clean passages (i.e. “Approaching the Well” and the intro to “It Dangles from the Bones”) that sound more inspired by early Opeth and Agalloch. The production is obnoxiously middle of the road; not quite raw enough to give the music edge but not clean enough to give it a bright, vivid sound. The same can be said of the performance. The mood that the music creates is fairly ambiguous. It’s dark music, but it’s not really evil sounding. Nor is it depressive. Nor is it ominous, or mysterious or creepy. For the most part Obsidian Tongue just flounders through generically dark sounding riffs, unable to ever summon any strong feelings. As a result, the songs sort of bleed into each other, creating a stream of monotony.

The stream finally feeds into a raging river on the closer, “Becoming the Storm,” which centers on a pair of beautiful, warm riffs that are full of heart and conviction. Obsidian Tongue stretches the song out for nine minutes, mostly just changing the tempos and textures in which the riffs are surrounded; and why not? These are the sorts of riffs that you just want to bask in and Obsidian Tongue indulges.

In spite of the splendor of the closing track, good riffs and interesting composition are simply too sparse on Subradiant Architecture. Not a good way to start out a series. Still, Obsidian Tongue do just enough on this debut that this reviewer will give Vollume II a chance.

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