I love TheKenWord, but the problem is, if you skip an hour on the AMG Slack channel, you’ll probably miss one of his 1462 album recommendations. Lucky for me, at the precise day and time when Kenny waxed on about Obsidian Tide’s new album I just happened to be lurking on the forums, and I caught the link. The young fella did himself proud with this recommendation. Obsidian Tide are an Israeli progressive metal trio, and Pillars of Creation is the band’s debut album, a seven-song, 55-minute concept album detailing a man’s journey to enlightenment. Their 2015 EP, Debris, was a little rough but showed promise, but let me enlighten you as to how good this debut is.
The first thing you’ll notice about Pillars of Creation is the sound. The band produced this themselves (primarily drummer/programmer Erez Nadler), but brought in Jamie King (BTBAM) to mix and master, so it sounds a lot like everything he touches: clean, sharp, detailed, but not lacking in power. The opening track is also the title track, and a great summation of the album as a whole. The rhythm section is tight and intricate, and the guitar work is completely on point. The arrangement is epic and dynamic, and the vocals are a mix of clean and harsh. Guitarist/founder Oz Avneya performs the cleans, and his accent lends the lines a certain mystic allure. Bassist Shachar Bieber (no relation) handles the harsh vocals, and while they aren’t off-putting, they have a bit of room for improvement.
That small nitpick aside, Obsidian Tide hit the prog metal sweet spot. “Pillars of Creation” segues directly into “Seven” via a tribal tom run, and the band shows some Tool influence here—but not too self-absorbed. “Seven” feels more stripped-down than the title track, as the band reverts to a pure guitar-bass-drum formula. It’s a heavy-hitting song. The band’s other main influence, Watershed-era Opeth, rears up elsewhere, notably on “Portent of Betrayal” and “The Harbinger and the Millenial Vengeance,” which both very much exude Opethian undertones. The latter song also features Symphony X’s Mike LePond on bass. But don’t let these influences mar your impression of the album: Obsidian Tide throw in a number of left turns, notably the extended piano jam ending “King of a New Realm” and a stellar sax solo courtesy of Omri Abramov to end “Magnanimous.”
There’s been plenty of epic, and really good, prog this year. Soen, Sermon, and yes, Tool, all spring to mind. Obsidian Tide also find themselves in this group with Pillars of Creation, which ticks all the boxes for the prog-minded amongst us: elaborate, epic arrangements, a decent but not overwrought concept, and outstanding performances in all facets. The band takes their influences and tastefully melds them into their own style, combining deft musicianship with plenty of melody and atmospherics, and in doing so have crafted one of the top progressive metal releases of the year.
Tracks to Check Out: “Pillars of Creation,” “The Harbinger and the Millenial Vengeance,” “Magnanimous”