One has to respect acts like Obsequiae who succeed in creating a singular, immersive musical vision within black metal. Sophomore album Aria of Vernal Tombs finds the band expanding their richly medieval-influenced sound, continuing along the path that was set forward on 2011’s Suspended in the Brume of Eos while managing to improve upon it in almost every way.
While the band’s debut struck me as promising but perhaps a bit directionless in places, Aria of Vernal Tombs is a stream of deliciously intertwined melodies supported by a gorgeous guitar sound that ensures the listener doesn’t miss any of the album’s intricacies. Obsequiae are obviously not out to craft easily digestible songs that follow traditional structures; instead each composition blossoms and weaves in different directions, sometimes pairing with primary songwriter Tanner Anderson’s arcane growls to lend a bit of heaviness to the mix. Heavier sections are the exception rather than the norm however, as most of the time the band is content to sonically pay homage to the days of honorable kings, court jesters, virtuous knights and their fair maidens. Obsequiae falls firmly into the atmospheric black metal camp, and like many of that genre’s best releases the clear focus here is on the incredible guitar work and overall sound.
It’s almost impossible not to draw comparisons between this album and Blut Aus Nord‘s recent Memoria Vetusta albums, and to a lesser extent other similar releases like Spectral Lore‘s recent masterwork III. Not only does Aria of Vernal Tombs take a similarly unstructured approach, preferring to explore a certain musical idea over the course of an album rather than craft distinctive songs, but Obsequiae’s rich guitar tone and harmonies sound almost exactly like the lead work on both Memoria Vetusta albums, especially the II: Dialogue With The Stars release. I still find myself occasionally wondering how Blut Aus Nord managed to achieve that guitar sound, which not only sounds nothing like their other releases but seems to be pretty much peerless in the genre as a whole, and yet Obsequiae have managed to come pretty close to duplicating it here. Really the only difference is that Aria of Vernal Tombs works to craft a medieval atmosphere instead of the cosmic and rural images evoked by Blut Aus Nord’s releases.
While Aria of Vernal Tombs is undeniably black metal, it’s clearly on the opposite side of the spectrum from things like Mayhem, Katharsis and Antaeus. Assuming you have at least some tolerance for the genre’s more contemplative side, this album is pretty much mandatory to at least check out.
Also, just a quick note on the vinyl release since it just came out: I picked up the vernal green version since the gold one was already sold out, and the green color is actually really cool looking. It dark such that if you have it sitting on something it looks almost black, but if you hold it up to the light you can see the green shining through. 20 Buck Spin was nice enough to throw a couple Obsequiae stickers and some other cool stuff in with my purchase as well, so I definitely recommend picking it up before they’re all gone!