Saeculum Obscurum // Into the Depths of Oblivion
Rating: 3.0/5.0 —Has promise.
Label: Thunderblast Records
Release Dates: EU: 14.01.2011 | US: 01.14.2011 [Digital]
As you can tell, my resolution for 2011 was to review more obscure and underground music that no one has ever heard of. I want you to know that this means that I am reviewing like everything I get, if it’s possible, and really I’ve had some good luck and some really fucking horrendously terrible luck. I’m going to say that Saeculum Obscurum falls on the good side of the luck barrier. I figured with a name that means “The Dark Age” and a logo by the mighty artist and logo magnate Christophe, this one deserved a fair shake at least.
At their very core Saeculum Obscurum is a melodic death metal band. With all the negative press that goes along with melodeath in the modern era, I think it’s important to point out that these guys are really pretty good at the melodic side of things. Reminiscent at times of Amon Amarth or Unleashed, Saeculum Obscurum is a pummeling assault on the ears but they do it with good taste. That the band has taken on a bit of black metal into their sound is what seems to have moved them from the In Flames, Dark Tranquillity side of melodeath to the Amon Amarth side. Lots of trem-picked melodic passages with a solid double bass and keyboards is actually what makes these guys pretty cool. On top of that, particularly on the track “Interludium” which begins with a piano section, there is some really outstanding melodic guitar work.
There are, however, some complaints that I have about Into the Depths of Oblivion. Firstly, the record is oddly not cohesive. While there are standout tracks like “Interludium” and “Apostasy” which carry the melodic death metal/black metal flag high, there are other tracks which sound like they were written by a budding metalcore band. Now, this doesn’t have to be all bad, but these riffs really pull the album down at places. For example, the track “Hibakusha and the Little Boy” has a stoppy, almost breakdown style riff as its primary riff and it really doesn’t work for me. “The Endless Journey of a Pain Tortured Soul” is another track that feels like it was maintained from the “old days” before the band decided to rebrand itself and really do something different. While the guitar work and melodies are commendable, this song just sounds like Unearth or Killswitch Engage and while it’s done well, it’s not cohesive with the rest of the record.
My other big complaint about this album is that the death metal vocals are weak. The guttural vocalist is really just missing the kind of power that I’m looking for in death metal vocals. When he goes to the sort of Swedish mid-ranged vocals he sounds great, but he can’t carry the low the vocals well and it sounds weak (also the clean vocals on “Eternal Isolation” are silly). To be honest, that should be taken care of in the studio and I’m not sure why it wasn’t. In any case, it hurts some of the oomph that this record has. Other than that, however, the musical performances are very good, the writing is on the good side of the spectrum and with a bit more cohesive sound and some original ideas which will pull them beyond the “comparing to Swedish death metal bands” stage, these guys could be good!
So if you’re a fan of the genre or you dig obscure bands and want to show off your ultimate superiority because you spend more time learning about obscure bands than your friends, this is a place to start. This is a band that you might want to check out just to have on your radar, and if you’re a fan of melodic death metal they might even rub that gleeful little partâ€”certainly 3/4 of this album made me sit up and take notice. Now the ball is in their court to build on a promising, if flawed, beginning.