Saturday, December 8, 2012

Obsidian Kingdom - Mantiis

Mantiis is not an album for the faint of heart or for those of conservative musical tastes. For the rest of you, welcome to Obsidian Kingdom.

I sat and examined the cover art, a disgusting looking praying mantis human cross-species, as I listened to the album through headphones.  (I absolutely recommend that you listen to Mantiis with closed ear headphones.  It adds a lot of  the “soft” nuance that makes up the sound of the album.)   Obsidian Kingdom's version of experimental, psychedelic, progressive, operatic, heavy metal rock (you tell me what to call it) had me checking on my stash, turning the black light on and plugging in the lava lamp. One piece of advice - the first time you listen don't shuffle this album; let it play in order.

Mantiis begins with "Not Yet Five" and you begin your experience with a slowly building soundscape that will make you feel like you are quietly travelling through interstellar space.  You linger in a dissonant harmonic nothingness that is interrupted by a slow, rhythmically played piano chord or two, a solitary strum on a sixth string electric guitar or the clatter of a crash cymbal, until you think you hear an ocean breaking on a distant shore. Then, this mantra of a song encounters a screech of electronics, and you feel as if you have been wirelessly scanned by some sentience.  Random amplifier feedback punctuates a growing uneasiness. Something tries to communicate but in the end there is nothing but time to roll another one.

And Obsidian Kingdom does, one after another, on this fourteen track experimental, psychedelic, stoner of a metalish rock album.  It calls the album “An Agony In Fourteen Bites.”  Track 2 brings "Oncoming Darkness",  an acoustic guitar inspired journey with the ghosts of Pink Floyd and the Moody Blues that starts when "three wise men ride the big black car" and ends asking the question " Is there any sensible way to be spared from the oncoming dark?"  "Through The Glass", an instrumental black metal rocker, answers the question.

What's next?  "Cinnamon Balls", a gut-wrenching manic thrash doom metallic rocket of snarling hate and anger about a guy that has a damn hard time taking "No" for an answer. Obsidian Kingdom chose to dramatically slow the pace with “The Nurse,” which is 100 seconds of instrumental classical-tinged ballad for piano, drums and guitar.  The band’s “Answers Revealing” is an up-tempo, alternative rock sounding cut with a brief set of existential and allegorical lyrics -


On the verge of a whisper
The skies pregnant with corpse-blue scars
Down a tree ripe with bruises
Breath is stolen by broken goodbyes

Obsidian Kingdom follows this mainstream whimper with “Last of the Light”  which packs a terminal death metal wallop. “Genteel to Mention” is a classical piano-based chorale with church psalm harmonies and poetic, almost stream of consciousness, lyrics.

The band shows off its roots as an independent band from Barcelona, Spain with “Awake until Dawn,” a death, gloom scream metal start with a Spanish stanza before the English lyrics, and a change at the mid-point to a classical piano that gently rises with the sun. Eerily, the final verse floats over swells and then electrically cuts out.  It is rock theatre as expressive as early Genesis and as modern as Megadeath. 

The progressive rock components of the band’s sound are on display in “Haunts of the Underworld,” an almost four minute intoxicating instrumental track.  “Endless Wall” marks a return to a dark devil- voiced death metal and, two songs later, “Ball-Room” does the same. In between there is “Fingers in Anguish”,  a psychedelic, stoned out experimental blues ballad that sounds as if it has been caught up in a whirlwind.  The album ends with “And Then It Was”, a metal opera seemingly inspired by Jim Morrison’s “When the Music Over” and death metal’s violent imagery.

This album is surely not for everyone but it won’t cost you anything to download right here or from bandcamp  -  Obsidian Kingdom firmly stands by its position that their entire discography will be offered free.  However, if you really like this band, why not spend 11 Euros (about $15) for the limited deluxe Digipack physical edition?  Only 500 will be made and they include a Hard-cover with a 14 page printed booklet with artwork curated by minimalist artist Ritxi Ost├íriz (Ihsahn, Ulver) and fashion designer Elena Gallen (Kulte, VICE).  It also includes an immediate download of the album in your choice of formats. 

Sounds like a great deal to me!

- Old School

The Album

“Not Yet Five”

“Awake Until Dawn”

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