One of the best parts of the job of a music reviewer is stumbling across new, relatively unknown bands that deserve attention for what they’re doing. In what I hope is a good omen for the year, I’ve already encountered my first left-field surprise with Germany’s Nailed to Obscurity. As their name ironically suggests, these chaps have been toiling away without much recognition, but King Delusion may be about to change that for the better. Nailed play an interesting fusion of death/doom and post-metal, and as the album unfolded, the list of bands their style borrows from grew long and prestigious indeed. Their biggest influences are early Katatonia, November’s Doom, Tool and Rapture, but hints of Opeth, Paradise Lost and Ghost Brigade can be heard as well. With a veritable murderer’s row of influences like that, you’d expect something pretty impressive, and the band doesn’t disappoint, dropping almost an hour of bleak, morose doom/death with a true flair for dark moods and haunting melancholy. This is so good in fact, it puzzled me I hadn’t heard of these guys before, as this is their third album. I guess Steel Druhm‘s mighty Metal Detector isn’t omniscient after all, darn-it.
The opening title track immediately drags you into the dark little world the band inhabits, with jangled post-metal riffs creating an uneasy vibe that builds slowly, alternating ominous and melodious riffs that recall the best of Katatonia alongside elements of Behemoth, and when Raimund Ennega’s death roars crest the hill, things feel heavy and grim indeed. The way the riffs toy with the listener’s moods is quite ingenious and it’s apparent a lot of thought went into the writing.
The quality runs strong through tracks like the downcast “Protean,” which owes as much to Tool as it does to any doom/death act, and it’s hard to resist the dejected riffs and forlorn clean singing that surfaces for the first time here. It’s an oddly beautiful song, and I fell for it immediately. “Deadening” is equally emotive, with a goth rock sheen layered over depressive post-metal riffs and death metal vocals. “Memento” and “Devoid” remind me of the rock-infused Rapture material mixed with elements of Witherscape and both songs are winners that demand replay.
The album centerpiece is the massive, 12-minute “Uncage My Sanity” which has no business being as listenable and accessible as it is considering its overblown length. This is due to slick writing, a keen sense of mood and awareness when to change things up. There’s a plethora of interesting musical moments and the writing provides for peaks, valleys and a sharp dynamism between the somber and heavy moments reminiscent of November’s Doom at their unmerry best. Most tellingly, the song doesn’t feel anywhere close to its actual length. I’m especially enamored with the sad melodic segment at 6:30.
There isn’t a weak moment or track to call out over this 56-minutes slab o’ death/doom. Sure, there could’ve been some minor edits, and there are one or two awkward transitions that break the spell of the mostly well-crafted compositions. Aside from that, there’s not a whole lot to nit-pick about and as long albums go, I find this shockingly easy to digest in a single sitting. I’ve been spinning it through and starting it over again for several days and it only gets stronger the longer I marinate in it.
King Delusion is a tribute to high-level writing, but it’s the guitar-work from Jan-Ole Lamberti and Volker Dieken that propels the material while making it so accessible. They have a real knack for triggering moods with their riff choices and whether they dabble in post-metal, post-rock or doom, their playing is very ear-catching. Ennega’s vocals are perfect for the music. He has a deep, heartfelt death roar that lends the music enough heaviness even when the guitars are trilling melodically. His clean singing is respectable too and used sparingly enough to pop when it appears. Though it’s rare I focus on drumming, I find myself very aware of what Jann Hillrichs does behind the kit. He has a real presence that doesn’t depend on blastbeats or double-bass rolls to grab attention. This is a talented ensemble and they play off each other extremely well. There’s a grace to the writing and performances that has that “it” factor and it pushes all my sad-boy music buttons.
My first high score and gushy review arrives way earlier in 2017 than I’d have liked, but so be it. King Delusion is the real deal and I can’t stop spinning it. If you want something to harsh your mellow as you await the new Pallbearer, this is your V.I.P. ticket to the grave parade. This deserves your time and attention, so adjust your schedules according.