Obitus - Slaves of the Vast MachinePost-black has often struck me as expressing a decadent sort of misery, one which is more malaise than malice, an effeminate whimpering against the dying of the light. It seems to cry out to the God it vehemently denies exists and beg for a purpose, painting a bleak sort of hopelessness; a musical version of an off-brand Sartre, if you will. Like Sartre’s Roquentin1, post-black bands create to find a purpose, but they end up stuck in the slime, accepting the hilariously overstated “death” of God and tradition, whining like Nietzsche’s Last Man for the dull pain of a meaningless existence to stop. Obitus, a Swedish band advertised as progressive post-black metal, take a far better approach to the genre on their sophomore record Slaves of the Vast Machine.

Even the most casual listener will immediately spot the differences between Obitus’s take on post-black as compared to the cringe-inducing Deafheaven. Slaves of the Vast Machine is clearly steeped in the Swedish black metal tradition, channeling older bands like Dark Funeral and newer bands like The Legion in their energetic, icy, and often dissonant riffs. The maniacal yet mechanical feel of Rage Nucleaire is present too, and the elements of post-black seem to derive mainly from burlier takes on the genre a la Pestilential Shadows. There’s even a bit of Mayhem’s underrated Grand Declaration of War in the mix, but the focus is on the less avant-garde parts and more on the quick and sterilized riffing.

Now for the interesting bit: Slaves of the Vast Machine is a single forty-five-minute song that is outright unrelenting. The cold and methodical punishment suits the concept well, as the world Obitus are trying to create through their music is one of Orwellian totalitarianism. They succeed, and the music sounds “gray” as all get-out but not monotonous. That said, it’s hard to remember specific parts of Slaves in a “this riff ruled” way. A certain melody about seventeen minutes in sticks out, but that’s largely due to the fleeting glimpses of hope it offers as if to showcase the indomitable human spirit still beating and fighting within the vast machine. After this, the music gives way to melancholy, and Obitus smartly relegates their story’s most vulnerable moment to mere seconds of space; the totalitarian machine drives forward towards “progress” regardless of its subjects’ feelings.

Obitus 2017

Near the song’s end, Obitus introduces a level of discord into their dystopia that wasn’t heard before. A more sinister version of the almost hopeful riff seems to duel with the dissonant and unrelenting “machine” riffing that populates much of the song, ending with the former fading out and giving way to one final, full-volume scream; it’s an effective and chilling way to end a record. I must say that some parts here are less engaging than others, but something tells me that each listener will find something different to be the most captivating bit here. There’s shockingly little weak material or time-wasters present, which is quite impressive for such a large and ceaselessly intense song.

Slaves of the Vast Machine is cold and metallic in production, using a somewhat obvious drum machine to good effect. It’s not “good” production in the abstract sense, but it suits the music of Obitus perfectly. Having entered the dystopia numerous times, I can safely say that particular parts don’t stick out like in 1984, and the dread and aimlessness isn’t as well captured as it was in a book like Darkness at Noon. Those are high benchmarks, however, and Obitus convincingly create a miserable and compelling place with their music. It’s a great pleasure forced upon the reviewer to step into a world created by an artist, and Obitus have created a near-futuristic dystopia I didn’t want to come back to but felt compelled to anyhow. A rare album where concept and execution flow together in total unison, Slaves is absolutely worth hearing for anyone interested in modern black metal. For those who want to hear in musical form what authors like Karl Popper, F.A. Hayek, and Alexis de Tocqueville (among many others) were so passionately against, Slaves is an exhausting, rewarding, and highly recommended listen.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 196 kbps mp3
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Websites: obitus.org | facebook.com/dronesofobitus
Releases Worldwide: February 16th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Not to be confused with our far more likable Roquentin.
Share →
  • Westpaceagle

    Diabolous with another superb review! You basically sum up the glaring problems and potential of post-black in one review, plus you trash Deafheaven, so extra marks from me!

    • Name’s Dalton

      High marks on mentioning F.A. Hayek!

  • Daniel Ritson

    I disagree with the Deadheaven diss, but very, very much agree with and appreciates the reference to GDoW. Not hyperbole: potentially the most underrated extreme metal record, ever.

  • Iain Gleasure

    Can we stop accepting 45 minute songs as albums or even songs please. I mean lets be honest people usually just record a bunch of songs put them together and say: “ha ha, I’ve made a single song!”

    I’m looking at you Achilles Agony and Ecstasy in 8 parts and 2112.

    • Oberon

      So you are ok with Shine on you Crazy Diamond?

    • ricLP81

      I’d say Insomnium did it very well with Winter’s Gate

      • Feytalist

        Now, I like Winter’s Gate, but there were really like 6 distinct songs in that album, regardless of packaging. Not sure it’s the best example of a one-track album.

        Wasn’t it even released in separate tracks on iTunes or something?

        • DrewMusic

          Agreed. Killer cohesive album, definitely one of the best front-to-back album flows of 2016 in my opinion, but it still feels like 6 tracks to me. 6 tracks that really, reeeally cooperate well together, but individual tracks all the same.

    • LExpoZiod

      Thick as a Brick?!

    • Diego Molero

      Dude, Crimson.

  • contenderizer

    “[A]n effeminate whimpering”, huh? Was that your first choice, or did you linger awhile on “bitch sniffles” first?

    • Grymm

      Watch someone use “Bitch Sniffles” as the name of a powerviolence band now.

      • DrewMusic

        Or a 55 minute single-track depressive post-black ambient ep with guest vocals from Deafheaven.

      • sir_c

        Sniffle The Bitch would do as a metalcore band name

    • SegaGenitals

      Rage, rage against the allowance of your parents..

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Nah, limp-wristed languishing took the #2 spot.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        lol

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Good review but you lost me at 1 x 45 minute song.
    Off topic but when is the back ground being changed to Kreator…:)
    Please not Pain of Salvation AMG it will be the worst back ground since Our Oceans’s Barnes and Noble abomination… Gods of Violence would look sweet..

    • Grymm

      I have a 5-song, 96-minute black metal album review submitted.

      No, that ain’t a joke. It did happen.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Oh man that sounds like a form of torture…
        What did you do to upset Madam X and Steel Druhm…?

        • Grymm

          I… willingly picked out of our promo bin without knowing just how long it is.

          • Carlos Marrickvillian

            Sheesh win some lose some I guess…
            It’s the equivalent to 2 Horrendous albums + a bonus tour EP… thats longer than Show No Mercy, Hell Awaits and Reign in Blood put together… Who are these guys kidding!

          • [not a Dr]

            Free will is overrated.

      • sir_c

        Still, listening to a single 3-minute Geoff Tate song feels longer than 96 minutes

    • Absolomb

      Pain of Salvation’s album is the better but I do agree that their artwork is terrible this time around.
      Maybe we can have Kreator’s artwork even if PoS wins…?

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        I’d accept that as a solution. Though sadly, I suspect that quality of album art is not a factor in AMGs deliberations.

    • PanzerFistDominatrix

      Just got back home from a Kreator show in Copenhagen an hour ago… was nice :-)