Artist: Obsidian Kingdom
Album: Meat Machine
Label: Season Of Mist
Obsidian Kingdom is a band hailing from Barcelona, which defines their sound as “hard-to-classify heavy with plenty of contrasts.” These kinds of bands tend to have a problem with blending genres in a way that does not feel natural. As a music fan who actually enjoys this approach, I gave this new Season of Mist release a spin prior to its release on September 25th, 2020, with the hope that they have established a way to make their music feel like a connected united framework of influences.
The album opens up with the first track, “THE EDGE.” It starts with a sludgy riff with alternating pinched harmonics and a chromatic synth line. The riff stops abruptly, revealing electronic bass and a calm section with minimalist piano and female vocals, which then builds up into a section very reminiscent of DEFTONES’ late work, then falling back into the main riff. After this is a final breakdown, which I found kind of funny because of the way the main vocalist screams “huh” during it. It is intense though.
The next composition, “THE PUMP,” is a weird combination of synth-y industrial metal with (again) a DEFTONES-like chorus – a sonic wall of dreamy chords. The vocal line of the chorus is something my ear wants Chino Moreno to sing, as Rider G Omega’s (quite a name) vocals just don’t get me. It might be just my aesthetic preference, but it is a bit weird to hear a guy with a baritone going for this kind of style of singing there.
Continuing my point about the vocalist, in the intro to the next track, “MR PAN,” he goes for a different vibe and does it much better. Here he is far more reminiscent of the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN’s Greg Puciato’s clean singing. Actually, instrumental also reminds me of DEP a lot, especially their track “Parasitic Twins” from the “Option Paralysis” album. The completely different direction in which “NAKED POLITICS” goes is quite enjoyable, venturing into almost pop-rock territory until the bridge, when the mood darkens again for a buildup and then releases us back to the light mood of the final chorus. It is a well-crafted composition but it’s hard to see how it fits in with all the previous material, as it doesn’t have any sort of through-line to the rest of the album.
The next track, “FLESH WORLD,” is just a world of cheesiness, with it’s plastic strings, spoken word intermission, and general lack of originality in composition. There is one section with a bland, boring riff going for 8 bars with no development or any point to it. “MEAT STAR” was an immediate turnaround for me, no wonder it is a single. The too-contrasting vibes in the song work well together. The main riff is slow, heavy, and harmonically interesting and the use of synths to evoke an epic feel, which failed on the previous track yet works very well here. Furthermore, the chorus is catchy as hell.
The quality takes a bit of a dive in “THE SPANKER,” which is a straightforward track based on the drummer’s groove and filled with single synth lines and arpeggios, guitars, and the vocalist’s wailing, yet somehow all of that fails to create an interesting or at least an entertaining texture. The same goes for the next track, “THE VOGUE.” Maybe at this point I just started getting tired of the palette that the band frequently employs when they write heavy riffs, as it gets repetitive through and through. Also the synths feel like patches from one package or the stock patches that came with the synth; it’s hard to be sure, but the sounds are quite dull.
However, on the next track, “WOMB OF WIRE,” it gets better overall. The band comes together to create a cool structure with disjointed guitar, drums, and a straight piano line, contrasted with a heavy break that definitely worked. Unfortunately, there is this intermission with overtly comically used auto-tune, which is just hauntingly godawful. Why? Despite enjoying modern hip-hop and being accustomed to auto-tune, this was clearly overkill. Maybe it is an artistic statement of some kind, but if so, it was beyond me. The last track, “THE FOE,” is a ballad-like song with female vocals. I like the bowed bass, which is a good choice for this kind of a mood. In general, quality of the main part of the song is something that the band would have needed on “FLESH WORLD.”
To conclude, this album wants to be a rollercoaster of different influences and it succeeds in doing so, yet the problem is with the patchwork material. It manages to feel stitched-together like a quirky DIY outfit. It borrows from different styles which are very easy to recognize and fails to blend them in a naturally flowing way. It is partially a very entertaining and well-produced album, but the flow of it just feels jumpy and sometimes just badly executed. I appreciate the attempt to make a good modern proggy record a lot though and consider it and honest attempt to create something different. I hope OBSIDIAN KINGDOM continue their efforts to expand the palette of rock and metal and that they will be able to do it better in the future.
Rating: 5.5/10, 3 stars
1. The Edge
2. The Pump
3. Mr. Pan
4. Naked Politics
5. Flesh World
6. Meat Star
7. The Spanker
8. The Vogue
9. Womb of Fire
10. The Foe