Obliteration - Black Death Horizon
Indie Recordings
Death Metal
7 songs (42:14)
Release year: 2013
Bandcamp, Indie Recordings
Reviewed by Goat
Album of the month

Hailing from the same hometown as Darkthrone, Norwegian four-piece Obliteration have received a lot of praise from Fenriz and were initially signed to his label. Sharing members with respected acts like Aura Noir and Nekromantheon, Obliteration make death metal full of evil atmosphere and rotten, shuffling riffs that work their way inside your head like maggots and refuse to leave. Moving away from the gore-y style of previous albums, here the band are much more focused on the atmospheric side of their music, and are all the better for it. It's initially an almost campy evil, however, very Hammer Horror; the wonderfully shaky clean-ish vocals and classic doom rumble of opener The Distant Sun (They Are the Key) setting the scene well before the band unleash some pent-up wild soloing and galloping drums partway through in a launch into death metal, acting as a wonderful intro without at all conforming to typical intro clichés. From then on, things become more serious, and the dark atmospheric intent behind that oddly eerie cover art comes into focus...

There's clearly been fair bit of influence from the classic A Blaze in the Northern Sky, the chaotic, seemingly-amateur careening between blasting and grooving riffs that assault your ears also owing a debt to Autopsy. You'll hear shades of everything from 80s thrash to early Mayhem in there; Obliteration walk a fine line between outright tribute and originality, often straying in favour of tribute, but like Darkthrone and their love of Celtic Frost it's so lovingly performed that you just won't care. The originality comes not just in how fresh and well assembled the music is, but in the form of the song structures, which are unpredictable and progressive in a subtle, sneaky way, twisting and stretching beneath the rotting skin on top. Take Goat Skull Crown as an example, kicking off with a flurry of drums and distant old-school death metal riffage, before the yelped vocals come in. Yet the changes that the song goes through, from a doom-death crawl with creepy clean vocals to blasting black metal with croaked vocals, are so natural and smooth that you barely notice the change – all becomes part of the Obliteration sound.

True, these Norwegians are hardly the first to pull this trick off, but they do it extremely well here. They're clearly lovers of the style from little moments like the build-up at the start of Transient Passage, that ominous riff becoming even darker when the blasting kicks in and it all speeds up into an almost punky gallop. That they're also excellent musicians beneath the rawness (listen to the sheer amount of riff changes, or the huge amount of fills that drummer Kristian Valbo fits in around the edges of his frenzied beating) is part of what makes the entire shaky structure hold together so well. Let's face it, not every death metal band can write songs that keep the listeners' attention firmly on them, yet Obliteration make it look easy, making their sound not only atmospheric and hypnotic, but also memorable without resorting to ill-fitting catchy hooks.

There's not a weak track present. Ascendance (Sol Invictus) opens with epic lead guitar and proceeds into a strangely grandiose doomy meander that times itself perfectly, enjoying each drum roll and grooving riff before the inevitable burst of soloing sprouts like a zombie out of a tomb. The following Sepulchral Rites is shorter and seems far more straightforward, yet has a particularly fetid atmosphere that grows more eerie as it continues, being resurrected in the following title track's initial slow, agonising crawl and retained as it gains speed. It's all brilliantly compelling, and lends itself so well to multiple listens. This album could have been released in 1993; that it has actually been released in 2013 may show that metal is in sore need of new ideas, but it also makes plain that certain types of underground metal are absolutely timeless. It's not enough just to say that Obliteration have easily bettered the latest releases from their influences here, they deserve higher praise – they've made it sound fresh and exciting, they've dragged it from the tomb and shown with skill and taste that this sort of old-school music can be played just as well in 2013 as it can in 1993. Fenriz knows his stuff...

Killing Songs :
Goat Skull Crown, Ascendence (Sol Invictus), Sepulchral Rites, Black Death Horizon
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by Obliteration that we have reviewed:
Obliteration - Cenotaph Obscure reviewed by Goat and quoted 80 / 100
Obliteration - Nekropsalms reviewed by Khelek and quoted 80 / 100
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