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Obake - Self Titled [RareNoise Records - 2011]

Obake's eponymous debut on RareNoise records is a confident statement of mid-paced stoner metal with gothic/demonic atmospheric elements and extended ambient/post rock sections.

At first listen this band didn't stand out much to me.  After hearing the first two tracks, both pretty much stoner metal by numbers, I felt I'd heard the riffs before in songs by Electric Wizard, High On Fire and countless newer bands.  The vocals, forgettable gutteral death grunts, failed to draw my attention. 

Granted, doom metal tends to keep a limited chordal vocabulary, and this is not unintentional.  I soon picked up on the charisma of the band's playing, the sense of high drama possessed by each song, a result of careful structuring and spirited performances.  Each piece crescendos to a magnificent climax, which then seems to naturally lead into the next piece.  The expressive drumming really adds a lot of feeling to the music.  He uses the entire kit and unleashes a storm of fills, yet stays precisely on beat and reinforces the power of the guitar.

The beginning couple songs turn out to be misleading, as well: only about half of the found here could be called metal.  The entire middle section of the disk is a kind of sparse, desolate desert ambience similar in mood to modern Earth.  If you look up the individual members of the band, this no longer seems strange - they're all veteran musicians, but mostly in the electronic field!  Eraldo Bernocchi, the guitarist, is the man behind classic industrial project Sigillum S, and has collaborated with Mick Harris and Tony Wakeford.  The drummer, Balázs Pándi, played with Merzbow, Venetian Snares and other gurus of disruptive sonic aggression.

The narrative feel to the album, the clever building of tension and subsequent release that draws these disparate styles seamlessly together, is the best thing about it.  While I still acknowledge the familiarity of some of these ideas, they are always well executed and perfectly placed within the context of the composition.

The production is very powerful and creates a thick atmosphere, though it gets a bit cluttered sounding at the intense climactic moments.  The band means well - this recording is clearly a labor of love, and Obake has embellished their sound with numerous production elements that enhance the blood drenched, macabre feel they're going for.  Molten liquid toned leads and a ghostly chorus of wavering voices appear most frequently.  There are some great moments of pained singing, as well, that recall bands like Neurosis, who manage to carry a tune with their voices even as they scream with all their lungs.  The ending of the ominous dirge "Ponerology" is the best example of this, and maybe my favorite moment on the album.

I still largely tune out the grunted vocals, since what I can make out of the lyrics is hardly inspiring.  "UP.  SIDE.  DOWN."  is the repeated opening chant of the album.  The beginning of "The Destruction of the Power" ambiguously states "This is what I paid for..." in a similar repetitious chant.

In conclusion, this is a well thought out and very powerful album of atmospheric stoner metal that flows as a complete piece of art.  Yet, the vast potentials of the various veteran musicians involved in this project could certainly produce something more singular and unprecedented.  I look forward to what they do next, which will almost certainly be better.  Still, I certainly recommend "Obake" to fans of doom and stoner metal, provided they've heard the originators and important bands of the genre.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Josh Landry
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