I grabbed this album for one reason, and one reason only: the band name. Here in Canada, at least, one can’t help see the word Eradikator and think of this timeless skit from national treasures Kids in the Hall. I’d never heard of these swaggering Brits prior to seeing their name pop up in my promo feed, so I didn’t know that Obscura is their third album this decade and that they fancy themselves a pure heavy metal band whose music will “make even the most hardened ears hemorrhage liquid steel.” Take the catchy band name, the bold statement and the trio of bands cited as influences (Metallica, Iron Maiden, and Gojira), and I could actually be in for a whopper of a treat rather than just a chance to throw some love towards Canada’s version of Monty Python.
My hopes and dreams are shattered as soon as opening track “Nightmare Dawning” invades my speakers. The song is a four-minute straightforward garage band rocker, sloppy and punky — a vibe that’s exacerbated by singer/bassist Patrick Cox and his sneering Alice Cooper-like shout. I’m worried about eight more songs like this, after having been subliminally promised some melodic thrash metal. But then the strangest thing happens. It’s like Eradikator unknowingly put their worst song at the front of the album, because from “Poisoned to Sorrow” on out to album closer “The Siren Song,” we are treated to some top-notch heavy metal. “Revolve” opens with a spacey, flangy bass lick before hammering us with a staccato riff. Heavy and catchy are the flavors of the day, and that theme carries on with “Hourglass,” “Bound to You,” and “I Want to Believe,” all of which have subtle intros which lead into hard-hitting and compelling pure and trve metal blasts.
More interesting, though, is the unexpected dynamics in a couple of these songs. After the way Obscura opened, I was not expecting Eradikator to be capable of such songcraft. I’m talking about “The Siren Song,” with its somber acoustic intro leading into an anthemic song proper, and an epic guitar solo. Don’t hit me, but it reminds me of a heavier, meaner version of “Wanted Dead or Alive,” and I don’t care who you are, you have to admit that song has a fantastic arrangement. I’m also talking about the best song on the album, “Eyes of Old,” which is simply epic. Throughout the entire 6:29 it builds smoothly, from a melancholy intro to a balls-out metal thrashing mad solo, and down into a mean, staccato bridge before closing with a classy little solo atop acoustic strumming.
Much like last month’s Kryptos release, the listener’s enjoyment will hinge on the vocal performance. Eradikator’s music is undeniably sharp, tight, well-written and even more well-performed, but Cox’s vocals will be a sticking point for many. On my first casual romps through Obscura, his style was driving me nuts, coming across as unhinged and too “Type A” for the songs. But after maybe my fourth spin through the album, my ears had hemorrhaged enough liquid steel1 that his voice didn’t bother me anymore, and in fact, was marginally alluring; or at least, enough so that I could really enjoy the quality of music presented.
What it all boils down to, ladies and gentlemen, is a bit of a confusing album. Here on Obscura, Eradikator have given us a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The songs are better than they should be, with mature arrangements and searing guitar solos asserting themselves amidst fist-pumping anthems. The vocals will elicit some love/hate reactions (well, more likely tolerate/hate), but for those who accept Cox’s delivery2, Obscura features eight songs that all deserve to be played loud (and one that perhaps doesn’t). I find myself being drawn back into this album more than I expected when I first pressed play.