Monday, June 4, 2012

Obsidian Sea - 'Between Two Deserts'

Amidst a vast ocean of lumbering, riff-worshipping beasts of traditional doom it can be difficult for the little fish to stand out amongst the leviathans of the genre. Bulgaria’s Obsidian Sea drops their line in the water in an attempt to cause some ripples with their first full-length release ‘Between Two Deserts’. How does it measure up? Quite well, actually. A good point of reference in both vocal delivery and execution would be Finland’s The Wandering Midget, except Obsidian Sea’s duo of Bozhidar (drums) and Anton (vocals, bass, guitars, drums) lack the level of proficiency in their rhythm section compared to the drum-driven, progressive minded Finns. Obsidian Sea relies more on lumber opposed to groove.

The majestic album opener “At the Temple Doors” firmly establishes Obsidian Sea’s modus operandi of crafting solid traditional doom. Nothing more. Nothing less. The first half of the album might not contain any surprises, but the riffs are memorable, slow, and heavy—a pattern which becomes all too transparent and may reveal the album’s greatest weakness: lack of surprises or originality. Balancing on a razor’s edge between convention and inventiveness is perhaps the most difficult task for any doom band, especially for initiates of traditional doom.

At the end of the first half of the album Obsidian Sea finally deviate from their established formula by shifting to a thrashier tempo towards the end of fourth track “Impure Days”. While the change is welcome, it is the album’s first true misstep and illustrates that the band are a much more effective unit playing slow to mid-paced doom. The track is also comically marred by a sample of howling wolves that serves to distract the listener rather than enhancing the mood of the song.

At the center of the album “Curse of the Watcher” reigns supreme as the standout track. The initial riff is slightly reminiscent of Triptykon or latter day Celtic Frost in both execution and tone. It is the most dynamic structurally and contains perhaps the most sinister riffing to be found on the album. It’s a shame that this is the second shortest song on the album as it could have been extended and used as the album’s closer.

Starting with “Absence of Faith”, which boasts the album’s catchiest vocal melody, the latter half of the album continues down its established path by churning out consistent if not-too-original doom metal.

Obsidian Sea have fashioned a solid debut album that is perhaps most spellbinding in its dim, consistent mood. For those disciples who wish to further pursue the arcana of traditional doom ‘Between Two Deserts’ is an album worth adding to one’s collection. This is geared for fans of Reverend Bizarre or the aforementioned The Wandering Midget. It’s a solid debut and could signal great things to come.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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