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Obsidian Kingdom - Mantiis [Season of Mist - 2014]

Obsidian Kingdom are a Barcelona based folksy/ethereal metal band that derives most of their ideas from Opeth, from the waltz-like heavier sections in 3 to the extended acoustic passages filled with chorused clean singing.

I'm not particularly impressed by the narrowness of their influences; I listened to so much Opeth in my younger years that the source of most of these ideas is immediately obvious, but unlike this band I realize this is no excuse for copying their musical style verbatim.  From the mellotron in "Answers Revealing" to the 'bardic' vocals and wailing e-bow leads, the balance of elements is too suspiciously and exactly similar.  The flute synth patch in "Endless Wall", for instance, is identical to the ones used on "Ghost Reveries".

Copy though this is, for the most part it's a competent copy, though I can hardly take its 'goth opera' dramaticism seriously.  The riffs and guitar playing are the strong point of the album, providing many tasty licks, striking the same balance between 70's prog rock, jazz, blues, folk and black metal as Akerfeldt or his oft cohort Steven Wilson.  I am very quickly absorbed into the music during the instrumental movements.  The best thing about this album is the way the many movements, bite size at 2-5 minutes in length, skillfully and naturally transform into new ideas as they transition smoothly from track to track.  A piano soliloquy will crescendo into a triumphant march-like chug.  The album feels very much like one flowing longform composition.

Songs like "Awake Until Dawn" and "Endless Wall" have a good air of mystery and harmonized menacing riffage.  I find myself wishing there were a few less glum piano interludes and a few more real metal songs like this.

Unfortunately, the vocals take me out of it.  The lyrics are wordy, and the singer's voice nasal and not particularly pleasant to the ear or well in tune.  There are a number of attempts at harmonies, but the singer's vocal tone is just not up to the task.  His growl is significantly better, but really there is no section of this album that really feels 'heavy', even as much as Opeth who hardly deserved the 'death metal' tag they gave themselves.  There's a calculated, restrained feeling about this music, and one might say it's overproduced.  It could use more live energy.

The band's rhythms feel simplified and metric compared to the more experimental legends they clearly worship.  It reminds me of the bland mope-rock formula Katatonia has settled into over the years.  Much like newer Katatonia, this album lacks exuberance and liveliness, and feels arranged in predictable chunks of 4.

Like so many albums with talented players and a number of good elements, I can't recommend this one, as the final result is simply not convincing.  If you're going to play Opeth's music all over again, you'd better do it with equal passion and memorable quality to the original, and this isn't close to that.  The melancholy of this album seems shallow and laughable.  I generally expect more of the Season of Mist label; it's not like them to release something cheesy or derivative.

Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5Rating: 2 out of 5

Josh Landry
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