Obsidian Tongue // A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Brought to you by [insert USBM band here]!
Label: Hypnotic Dirge Records
Websites: myspace.com/obsidiantongue666  |  obsidiantongue1.bandcamp.com/
Release Dates: Out now!

Obsidian TongueSay what you like about the U.S. black metal scene, they know how to make so much out of so little. The number of American bands taking black metal in its arguably most minimalistic form and taking it in much more ambitious directions with long and winding song structures is quite staggering. But when you consider the roots of the black metal scene in the US, and the opus that made arguably the biggest impact on it, it doesn’t seem so surprising that so many bands follow almost directly in the footsteps of  Weakling‘s widely acclaimed album, Dead as Dreams. Their mantra of long songs, obscured themes, huge riffs and oppressive atmospheres obviously resonated deeply throughout the scene. With bands like Wolves in the Throne Room bringing small helpings of folk and post-rock into the mix, and around the same time Agalloch carving a niche of their own with the neofolk sounds dominating over the metal, it’s not surprising that Obsidian Tongue is almost a direct inheritor of every nuance of the U.S. black metal scene.

That isn’t to say it’s contrived either; even less that it would have mattered if it were. Most of these tracks progress in interesting ways, each averaging around eight minutes and only a couple seem to outstay their welcome. Far from the [cough] ‘hypnotic’ black metal with needless repetition in the vein of Fell Voices, these tracks aren’t repetitive at all, all of them being very dynamic and constantly changing their focus between the black metal, a desolate Godspeed You! Black Emperor post-rock tinge (but only slight) along with a strangely psychedelic feel, with the band not at all afraid to delve into guitar effects to keep the textures interesting throughout.

Obsidian-Tongue-promo-1As far as black metal goes however, Obsidian Tongue stays rather subdued and subtle, which I appreciate quite a lot. You can hear that it often goes all out and tries to be intense, but everything sounds so distant that it’s more of a soundscape than an intense wall of noise. A Nest of Ravens in the Throat of Time is an album that affirms several strengths of bands in the scene and creates an atmospheric black metal album tinged with an almost tribal and spiritual energy and it’s damn infectious.

But despite so much going on, it’s a shame that it isn’t all that memorable. With the exception of the excellent final track, a few minutes after hearing each the other songs you likely won’t remember much of what went on. The distant nature of the music makes all of the changes in songwriting seem more non-distinct than they should. This isn’t a problem when the album is playing — when it’s on it sounds great, but it doesn’t have sticking power.

treesRegardless, many of these tunes are pretty great — the wah pedal (I think) in the lead guitar of “My Hands Were Made to Hold the Wind” is great and adds a strong dynamic, and “The Birth of Tragedy” has a great dissolve into a quiet section with some great clean vocals that builds back up in a very, very pleasing way. The song that steals the show, however, is the final title track which features a vocal performance by John Haughm — his clean vocals adding a much needed soul to the song along with great riffwork all around.

Almost a direct link between Agalloch‘s atmospheric approach and Ash Borer‘s flair for intensity, this carves a nice sweetspot for itself within an arguably oversaturated scene. It’s not the most memorable album on Earth but it’s a competant ‘go to’ album for a certain mood, and when you’re in that mood, it definitely delivers (dry production and unmemorable riffs aside). Recommended for anyone who has found some kind of despondant solace in the recent U.S. black metal bands, and any fan of black metal that wants a great gateway into the vast USBM scene.

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  • Anon

    After a spin or two, I am buying this….. Too good to pass up.