Obolus- Lament

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, January 22, 2013

There isn’t that much information available about Obolus, other than the fact that the black metal band is based in San Francisco and has released a demo and an EP so far. The EP, entitled Lament, was released via The Flenser at the beginning of last year and offers five tracks that fall somewhere between depressive black metal and shoegaze infused black metal. Although the 20 minute run time may fly by quickly, the melodic hooks that the band is able to offer will make Lament worth returning to and hints at even greater ideas still to come.

It would be easy to assume that this is simply another bedroom project, but Obolus boasts production values that are far better than that. The sound on Lament is able to seamlessly blend the harsher tonality with soaring melodies, and the noise level is contained so that the riffs are able to expand and create a swirling atmosphere that is on par with other black metal of this type. What makes the material work so well is the simple fact that the instrumentals aren’t blasting for the entire 20 minutes, as tracks like “Desolation” and “Grievance” offer sprawling sections where slow, dreary melodies take the spotlight in between faster paced assaults. I wouldn’t necessarily put Obolus directly into the depressive black metal or blackgaze as the song structures and riffs often move between the two without fully falling into either style, but it’s safe to say that listeners who enjoy either style will find that this group has some interesting ideas. The one aspect I wasn’t that crazy about was the inclusion of two interludes, “Reflection” and “Lament” as these tracks both span two minutes in length and didn’t feel like they were fully developed. Filler isn’t usually a big deal, but considering that they take up two of the five songs I would’ve liked to see the band stretch them out a bit more.

Although they tend to get buried underneath the instrumentals, the vocals on Lament are harsh screams that should feel familiar to black metal fans. Obolus pulls from the same kind of high pitched shriek that has become common in American black metal, particularly those that go for a depressive feel. It often feels as though the vocals are just another element of the overall soundscape, as they never truly steal the spotlight and instead work with the instrumentals to give an extra layer of harshness to the tracks. This type of vocal performance is always a bit of an acquired taste, but if you’re willing to dive in and let the screams wash over you as they break out of the shadow of the instrumentals from time to time there’s plenty to discover.

Obolus doesn’t quite hit the same level of atmosphere as some of the more established atmospheric black metal acts but they come close. Although the interludes feel a little too filler like and could have been expanded upon further, the other tracks have riffs that are sure to grab listeners and this makes Lament worth a listen. Supposedly this group has only been creating material for about a year or so, and with some further growth they could become another prominent entity in the American black metal landscape.


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