Obsidious – Iconic Review

There’s been an incredible amount of hype roiling behind international supergroup Obsidious’s upcoming debut record Iconic. Having lived under a rock for the past two years, I missed literally all of that hype, only first becoming aware of Obsidious late this past summer. Nevertheless, once I heard all of the numerous advance singles, I was convinced that this would be my Album o’ the Year by the time I got to hear the whole thing. Technical death metal meets post-apocalyptic space opera meets musical theater? It’s quite possibly the most me thing to fall into my lap during my entire four-year tenure at AMG to date. Needless to say, I generated plenty of my own hype. The question remains, did Obsidious live up to it? The answer is a bit more complicated than a simple “yes” or “no.”

Aesthetically, Obsidious check pretty much all of my boxes. Newcomer Javi Perera (sourced from very underground Spanish thrash band Juggernaut) is a monstrous voice fronting the supergroup, delivering everything from clean and technically impressive singing to brutal death growls—he even reliably strikes that sweet spot between harsh and clean vocals which only a select few other vocalists (Darroh Sudderth, Joe Duplantier, Niccolò Cadregari) pull off. Ex-Obscura axeman Rafael Trujillo delivers a wide array of shreddery, ranging from speed-demon arpeggios from modern tech-death, halting Gojira-esque chugs, heavy/power soloing, dramatic lead melodies, and groovy riffs. Drummer Sebastian Lanser (ex-Obscura, ex-Edenbridge, etc) accomplishes a similarly eclectic feat on the kit, flawlessly driving the record across all of its genre-bending excursions without seeming to break a sweat. Accompanying all of that, bassist Linus Klausenitzer (Alkaloid, Eternity’s End, too many others to list) wefts and weaves his way between every nook and cranny not traversed by his bandmates to deliver melodic counterpoint with the fretless tone that we all know and love/hate. With these finely honed tools at the ready, Obsidious craft songs that are complex and nuanced, yet deceivingly catchy and wildly entertaining.

Nowhere are these characteristics more evident than in album highlights “I Am,” “Sense of Lust,” and the late album “Devotion.” My personal favorite of this bunch—by a narrow margin—is “Sense of Lust,” an early album banger that pulls the best hooks out of the Alkaloid playbook and streamlines them into a sensual, sinister stomp. Not far behind follow “I Am” and “Devotion.” “I Am” is the album’s epic at nearly seven minutes long, and also marks a turning point in the album’s progression and tone, ushering in a darker, but hookier back half. You can actually witness this transformation begin to manifest here, as marching riffs reminiscent of the early album cuts cooperate with Javi’s rougher semi-clean chorus to deliver one of the biggest of several monumental peaks. Speaking of which, “Devotion” is the closest to epic power metal Obsidious tread, and it’s a blast. Javi’s Broadway-worthy cleans are at their most emotive and powerful here, enhancing an already fun and delightfully straightforward composition filled with groove-laden riffing and righteous solos.

Other songs like “Iron Dust,” “Nowhere,” and opener “Under Black Skies” find success with similar attributes that make this album’s highlights shine, but they also serve to drag Iconic’s weak points into starker contrast. The title track is perhaps the weakest of the set, in part, counterintuitively, because of Javi’s excellent vocal delivery. In this case, high tenor cleans don’t always mesh well with the surrounding music, which is generically hypermodern and uses odd time signatures in a particular way that tends to alienate me rather than attract me. Additionally, “Iconic” feels bloated for a track that never reaches the same lofty songwriting standard set by Iconic’s other long-form selection, “I Am.” Elsewhere, tracks like “Bound By Fire” and “Delusion” fall short simply because they lack the memorability of Iconic’s strongest moments, denying me either a good hook to latch onto, an especially impressive performance from the guitarist or bassist to catch my ear, or an element of surprise—a twist—that would elevate these tracks into the same echelon as their album mates.

It should come as no surprise that, with the caliber and experience of its constituent musicians, Obsidious largely knocked their debut outing out of the park. It’s intelligent, entertaining, and cohesive as an album, offering listeners great tunes and a compelling concept. The issues that come with Iconic are the same that you might expect from any other quality debut: the best ideas noticeably overshadow the weaker ideas. Unlike many other debuts, though, Iconic is much more than a proof of concept. It’s a successful new experiment that simultaneously offers plenty to be excited about and plenty of room for further development. I, for one, am stoked to witness what Obsidious accomplish next!

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: facebook.com/ObsidiousBand | obsidious-band.bandcamp.com
Releases Worldwide: October 28th, 2022

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