With such a diverse and manic amalgam of styles offered up in Obsidian Kingdom’s debut album “Mantiis”, it would be hard to even grasp an idea of where the next step on their musical path would lead. I myself wondered if the original sound contained in that album was a one-off, and worried if the dreaded sophomore album jinx would come into play. And while this is a band that has a sound that pretty much forbids them from making the same album twice, I have come to the conclusion that I dive into their follow-up “A Year With No Summer” with no expectations, because their sound very much demands that from the listener. Predictability is not in their musical vocabulary.
Settle in with a great pair of headphones, close your eyes, and let the music take you away to a dark space where you can easily get lost. This album needs to be experienced in it’s entirety and not on a track by track basis. Permeated in each track is a heavy and thick delivery, thus making good on the album’s depressing title. The goose bumps and hairs standing up on the back of your neck from the raw emotional delivery creates a tight bond with the listener.
The title track (and album opener) sets the tone for the album, with a subdued beginning leading to a heavy outburst, then toning back down, weaving back and forth in seamless form. This carries us to “April 10th”, a spacey track that doesn’t seem to have a start or an end, but is more an exploration in atmospheric pleasure with a beautiful keyboard backdrop, accented by guest vocals from Garm of Ulver. Highlighting the heavier side of their palate are tracks “Darkness”, which gives forth a punk attitude at first, and then settles in to dark subtle soundscapes, and “The Kandinsky Group”, perhaps the most “extreme” sounding track of the album with it’s forceful delivery coupled with the bands familiar background tapestry, not to mention the whispering of Attila (Mayhem) layered through the beginning moments of the composition. And the final track “Away/Absent” proves to possibly be the heaviest of the bunch. Fans wanting more of the debut’s sound will appreciate familiar aspects of this song the most out of all when comparing the band to their past.
In all honesty, this is perhaps a less extreme effort than the debut in terms of obvious heaviness, but don’t mistake that for a lack of diversity. The band seem to gravitate towards post-metal in a sense with their follow-up based on the more atmospheric qualities of the group’s sound. And although this album is missing a lot of the harsh vocals from “Mantiis” in favour of an emotional caterwaul, it definitely meshes beautifully with the overall mood of the album.
There will obviously be some fans that won’t be on board with this effort since it’d be hard to please everyone with such a complex and varied sound, but with this type of a band, progression in sound is key, and judging by their current output, that will only evolve and flourish over time. And for the fans of Obsidian Kingdom’s continued evolution, this is a journey that you wont want to end, opting to give in to your imagination about where you think they will travel next as artists.
01. A Year With No Summer
02. April 10th
04. The Kandinsky Group
05. The Polyarnik
06. Black Swan
Playing Time: 47.38
Release Date: 11 March, 2016
Label: Season Of Mist
Website: Obsidian Kingdom Official Website