Obsequiae – The Palms of Sorrowed Kings Review

Back in 2015 I was taken off guard and enchanted by the superb sophomore album from Obsequiae, entitled Aria of Vernal Tombs, which marked a strong improvement over their impressive debut. Despite operating a bit outside my regular wheelhouse, the album’s raw blend of folky and medieval melodic black metal struck a chord that left me gobsmacked, gushing over the album’s elegant melodies, accomplished song-writing and earthy tones. Perhaps most impressive of all, was Obsequiae’s ability to transport the listener back in time, bringing full immersion into their medieval inspired world, replete with ancient harp melodies and some truly epic guitar work. Well finally the band have awoken from their slumber, returning to the ye olden days with another taut yet epic collection of melodic black metal tunes on their long awaited third album, The Palms of Sorrowed Kings.

Masterminded by Tanner Anderson (vocals, guitars, bass), the trio deliver another enthralling collection of epic, guitar-driven metal songs. Stylistically not deviating far from its predecessor, The Palms of Sorrowed Kings hits the ground running, as Obsequiae’s sprightly melodic black metal gallops, bounces and writhes with wonderful energy, infectiousness and intricacy, riddled with folky and progressive elements revealing further layers of depth. Like Aria of Vernal Tombs, the album is interspersed with beautifully rendered, medieval harp-led interludes, courtesy of Vicente La Camera Mariño, that chain the album’s sleek and classy metal songs together, lending weight to the captivating and authentically-aged sounding atmosphere. The main guts of the album however feature full-fledged melodic black gems, imbued with the band’s spellbinding  melodic flair and medieval charm. What they lack in the frosty bleakness and rage of traditional Scandinavian black metal, Obsequiae make up for in their uniquely human and thought-provoking exploration of the blackened arts, akin to the vibes of Nechochwen or Saor, while comfortably maintaining their own identity.

Eloquent and wistful, without falling prey to pretentiousness or gimmick, Obsequiae serve up a more sonically polished and robust serving of signature tunes, sounding fresh and invigorated. The song-writing is layered and complex, rooted by its distinctive melodies and motifs, yet each composition bubbles with deft tempo shifts, harsh diversions, and some of the most beautiful, melancholy and emotive guitar work I’ve heard all year. Obsequiae’s style is seemingly uninterested in bombarding the listening with relentless waves of aggression and blasting iciness, rather opting for a measured yet frequently lively and dynamic clip, with the warm tones and ancient feel of the strong, upfront melodies cascading over the technical, diverse rhythms of new drummer Eoghan McCloskey. The album’s bouncier rays of light and woodsy, autumnal vibes contrast sublimely against the anguished vocals and urgent bursts of speed, exemplified on early album highlight, “In the Garden of Hyacinths,” the stunning title track, and triumphant ebb and flow of “Asleep in the Bracken.”

Tanner’s performance is once again the focal point, highlighted by a dazzling array of heartfelt leads, harmonies and infectious melodies. His style is distinctive but far from one-dimensional, incorporating melodeath and proggy touches into the band’s organic, earthy spin on melodic black metal. Tanner’s coarse vocals provide an uglier extreme counterpoint to the album’s prettier melodies, though at times more variety would be welcome, such as the understated clean singing that occasionally features. And while the song-writing is top notch, Obsequiae’s well-established formula hasn’t evolved in leaps and bounds since their last album. Furthermore, though generally the interludes are effective punctuation points, they are a tad overdone, chewing up roughly a quarter of the album’s run-time. These are relatively minor points that prevent the album reaching dizzying heights but don’t greatly hinder its many strong qualities.

My relationship with black metal is a complicated one with no set guarantees of what I’ll be taken by. In many ways, from the refined production, intricate musicianship, and epic melodic streak, The Palms of Sorrowed Kings sounds like an improvement over Obsequiae’s superb predecessors. However, echoing Eldritch‘s sentiments on the recent Necropanther album, while it feels like the band’s best work, the profound impact Aria of Vernal Tombs had on my soul lingers, and by comparison, The Palms of Sorrowed Kings hasn’t quite resonated as deeply. Nevertheless, it’s a great album, featuring a stellar collection of dynamic, richly textured and memorable songs, signalling a momentous return from this gifted and underrated trio.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: 20 Buck Spin
Website: obsequiae.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: November 22nd, 2019


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