Obscene – The Inhabitable Dark Review

I find myself greatly missing Hail of Bullets these past few years. That Dutch band of battle-hardened warriors had a truly great sound and knew how to craft devastating death metal ditties that stuck in your brain pan like a bayonet with a serrated edge.1 Perhaps that’s why the full-length debut by Indiana upstarts, Obscene clubbed me so brutally about the head, neck and buttocks. The Inhabitable Dark comes out of nowhere and lays the smack down with a very Hail of Bullets-esque attack and a level of song writing way more advanced than one would expect from an act with only an EP to their name. This is the real deal – heavy, ugly, crusty, scabby and smelling of the muddy trench. Yet as noxious as it is, there are dangerous hooks designed to snag you like rusty barbed wire in no man’s land. I hope you all had a recent Tetanus booster, because shit’s about to get real filthy, real fast.

Sans preamble or artifice, opener “Without Honor and Humanity” tears the surgical gauze off hard with a hyperactive introduction to what Obscene is all about. Frenetic riffs buzz past your head in a flurry and a vicious thrashing pace disorients you. When the vocals of Kyle Shaw hit the fan, you know you’re in a world of shit. The only way to describe his delivery is to imagine Martin Van Drunen (Asphyx, Hail of Bullets) being kicked savagely in the genital region right before recording his vocals and then soldiering on under enormous strain. It’s a love or hate style but damn if it doesn’t work in this context. The whole package is a winner and the song hits like a blockbuster bomb. Hell, they even throw in some Rick Rozz-worthy whammy bar abuse to make olde death heads like me smile. Better still, it’s all done in under 3 minutes, leaving you shell shocked but ready for more action. And action you shall have, as “Bless the Giver of Oblivion” introduces riffs that sound like they oozed off Blessed Are the Sick. This one excels at leaping between furious death and slow, ominously grinding doom segments that weigh a country ton. This is true death metal, you bastards!

And the true bombs keeps dropping. “All Innocence Burns Here” is very much in the style of Hail of Bullets and Asphyx with a rumbling mid-pace tank assault that slowly, inexorably overwhelms your feeble defenses, and the jackhammer riffs that arrive at 1:21 of “They Delight in Extinction” recall the battlefield glory of Bolt Thrower. “Isolated Dumping Grounds” is a personal favorite due to the unstoppable, propulsive power of the riffs and the sheer intensity of Shaw’s unhinged vocals. The band shakes things up for the closing title track, opting for a more restrained, drawn out grind with blackened edges that remind a bit of recent Marduk mixed with Bolt Thrower, which is a devastating combo. Shaw goes for broke here with his vocals entering the realms of suicidal depressive black metal as well as the Vocal Chord Abuse Hall of Fame.

At just shy of 33 minutes, a lot happens in a short period of time. The tight, concise writing works in the band’s favor, with most songs in the 3-4 minute sweet spot. There’s not much fat on these cuts and they kick your ass and move on long before you start resenting their presence. One of the only real downsides to the album is also its upside, and that’s how much it all sounds like Hail of Bullets. I can’t exactly award them points for originality when I’ve heard most of this stuff from the act they most closely imitate. Still, it’s so well executed with enough embellishments that you’ll overlook its sometimes overly familiar nature. Michael Morgan uncorks so many great riffs over the course of The Inhabitable Dark that you’ll wonder where they found this guy. Each song has a few corkers that make you sit up and take notice, and his solos are suitably insane. Oh, and that nasty guitar tone is raw enough to cause ear gangrene. What else can be said about Kyle Shaw as a frontman? He’s all in and fully committed, and he should be. He sounds absolutely out of his damn mind the whole time and his high pitched squeal is intense and powerful, even if it can start to wear on the listener by album’s end. I love what he is doing, but could stand to see him branch out a bit more too.

Obscene are not fucking around here. At all. The Inhabitable Dark is a humdinger of a death metal album and it will definitely get them noticed. This has everything you want in a death metal platter – guts, guns, glory and gristle. Oh, and every non-metal person in your life will positively hate it with a burning passion. This kind of thing sells itself.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Blood Harvest
Websites: obscenedeathmetal.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/obscenedm
Releases Worldwide: June 12th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Seriously though, don’t put a serrated edge on a bayonet. It will always come back to bite you.
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