Competition arises in the strangest places, and one of them is at the buffet. In eternal struggle of trying to cost the restaurant more than the ludicrous bill you’ll receive, there are three main strategies you can employ. First, eat a reasonable amount of the most expensive stuff. Second, sample a pinch of a large variety of foodstuffs and hope the numbers work out. Third is the dining equivalent of scorched earth policy, characterized by indiscriminate gluttony and staunch looks of disapproval from the wait staff and eventually your family or friends with whom you came. This method ensures a win, but at what cost? We’re about to find out metaphorically, because British death metallers Obscene Entity made a huge playlist of death metal their buffet, picked option three, and now we have Lamentia.
In case it wasn’t clear, they stacked their plate pretty high. Lamentia sounds closest to the new-school of the old-school like Blood Red Throne and their ilk, which itself already has substantially influential baggage. Obscene Entity make it even more obvious that they took decades of death into account, so expect some less technical Death, Abysmal Dawn, the requisite Ulcerate-lite stuff, Severe Torture’s characteristic busy riffing, and some blackened death elements that bring the massively underrated Tyranny Enthroned to mind. Mercifully, tech-death’s incessant noodling was neglected but Lamentia doesn’t wallow in simplicity; it’s very much a sharp blade of polished steel instead of a rusty hacksaw.
Obscene Entity fare best when they embrace their modern death metal sound and pepper it with the old as they do on the title track. It’s busy, but it builds on its theme nicely and enjoyably morphs into death metal clearly inspired by later Immortal during the midsection and follows it up effectively with some punishing riffing a la Dehumanized. Also good is “Black Blood” and its introductory Leprosy aping that leads into some solid prefix-less death metal, then an unobtrusive and fitting staccato bit, and finally a climax that makes great use of the “scream the title of the song four times” device. Entirely unrelated to Behemoth, “Shadow of Nergal” deftly walks the line between old and new, switching competently between typical but well done modern death riffing akin to Abysmal Dawn and what sounds like Undead‘s interpretation of classic Pestilence and Death riffs. Latter day Death makes a cameo in the choice solo section of “Insanity Binds” and noticeably outshines the rest of the alright song as a result, but standout material is still standout material.
If you thought the name-dropping tsunami above was a bit much, you’ll understand my main criticism about Lamentia. Obscene Entity brings together myriad elements and influence from those and even more bands that I like, but can often come across as a jack of all trades and a master of none. Also, “Disassembly of the Ego” is a waste of time, as while interludes are fine, they can and do kill a record’s momentum when they’re listless. “Euphoric Vanity” shows skill in the songwriting department by developing second-rate Severe Torture riffs into much better and less single-mindedly derivative ones, but the ratio of hit to miss throughout the song is jarring and second-rate riffs are still second-rate riffs, no matter how nicely they fit into the whole. While it may be the weirdest issue I’ve ever had with a death metal record in my tenure at AMG, I have to point it out: the verse riff of “Hymns of the Faithless” sounds like a death metal version of that terrible “Numa Numa” song, and makes it difficult for me to enjoy the song or even take it seriously.
Lamentia‘s production deserves mentioning because it’s dynamic and large, allowing everyone’s performance to be heard and appreciated. Each member brings some serious chops to the table but the band avoids falling into the modern trap of gratuitous instrumental showboating, making for a refreshing exercise in relative restraint that puts the songs first. It’s a shame that these songs by and large didn’t stand out from the pack more, because Obscene Entity have something pretty interesting going on in their sound and it’s hard not to like what they’re doing. That said, if they improve their sometimes scattered songwriting and focus on honing their mostly solid riff-craft in order to compete with their many influences instead of competently emulating them, their music could be some quality death metal.
Until that hopeful development, Lamentia is a good record that promises big things for the future. Even if it ends up as primarily a stepping stone on Obscene Entity‘s journey to the upper echelons of modern death metal, Lamentia is worth hearing. It’s a bit like Butchered at Birth: a decent record rightly overshadowed by future ones, but nice to throw on for context, variety, or just because it’s good.