This Is Oblivion – This Is Oblivion Review

This Is Oblivion is a fitting moniker. The duo’s self-titled debut is a siren’s song, its femme fatale not a songbird at a smoky speakeasy, but a specter that wanders the swamps and waterways of a cold countryside. Don’t get me wrong, she’s a temptress whose long fingers, baby blues, and that bottom lip nibble will swallow you in lust and longing,1 but a watery grave is mercy compared to the pit that lingers just behind her eyes. This is the void, the abyss – This Is Oblivion.

This Is Oblivion is a duo consisting of New York-based vocalist/violinist Lulu Black and her partner The Number Twelve Looks Like You/So Hideous drummer Michael Kadnar, taking influence from acts like Chelsea Wolfe, Swans, and Body Void in a Gothic blend of industrial noise and neofolk, accomplished through minimalist instrumentation. Relying on repetitive melody, doom percussion, and Black’s accomplished and varied vocal performance, This Is Oblivion is greater than the sum of its parts in its emphasis on evocation, ritualism, and summoning. Ultimately, while the duo’s debut is divisive for those whose tastes differ, getting lost in this succubus’ eyes is worth losing your soul.

What’s most accomplished about This Is Oblivion is the duo’s ability to conjure an atmosphere so ghostly and tantalizing with so few elements. Each track builds its soundscape upon a single instrumental melodic line utilizing violin, cello, piano, or industrial electronic swells, and backed by doomy percussion. Tracks like “The Truth,” “Undeserving,” and “A Reckoning” are built upon a menace and malice not unlike The Call of the Wretched Sea-era Ahab meets SwansThe Seer, while the pitch-black industrial effects of the latter recall the scathing industrial leanings of Corrections House’s Last City Zero. More serene offerings include “Elegy,” built upon a plucking violin and guest cellist Jennifer DeVore’s sprawling dirges, and closers “Unto You” and “Litany,” serene affairs gently laid upon the altar of Kadnar’s gentle piano, the latter crescendoing into an emotionally satisfying exit to This Is Oblivion’s sonic environment. Black’s voice is a force to be reckoned with, as she ranges from a piercing siren-esque flavor (“Elegy”), apathetic Michael Gira-esque groans (“The Truth”), to seductive whispers and near-growls (“A Reckoning,” “Offering”). Her prominence has a potential to overwhelm the simple arrangements, but the duo’s songwriting is so precise and subtle that a frightening balance in the name of the ghostly shroud is depicted.

To the duo’s credit, atmosphere and mood is key, and songwriting overtakes technicality. However, this debut is still a quite challenging piece of music. Although it is difficult to call what lies within this piece metal, its simplicity is deceptively dense. Recalling industrial- or noise-influenced folk acts like Chelsea Wolfe, Emma Ruth Rundle, or Giles Corey, the arrangements are stripped down even further, and consistency can be risked in the endeavor. “Elegy” and “A Reckoning,” although stunning affairs in their own rights, can feel jarring in seemingly wayward tricks: stripped back violin plucking and trap-influenced percussion, respectively. “Offering” is perhaps the most out of place, that while it succeeds mightily in its ritualistic and tribal mood that channels Swans’ weirder freak-outs through acoustic means, it lacks the purpose and direction of the others. Because of these off-kilter tracks, This Is Oblivion can feel a bit like Nahvalr’s “open-sourced” black metal project in its various tricks.

This Is Oblivion, if nothing else, is sweltering with promise. Like the outlandishness of being seduced by the abyss, there are few who do things like this duo. Michael Kadnar steps aside in favor of Black’s prominence, letting this ghostly femme fatale roam the countryside unabated. Perhaps one of the best examples of the “more than the sum of its parts,” you could choke on This Is Oblivion’s atmosphere in spite of its arrangements being extraordinarily simple. While consistency across its too-short thirty-two minutes could be tightened up and tweaked, what ultimately matters gets the spotlight: getting swallowed in the captivating eyes of the void.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Silent Pendulum Records
Website: More like web-frights, amirite?
Releases Worldwide: May 6th, 2022

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  1. Is it getting hot in here?
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