Review Summary: While not exactly reinventing the genre, Ossastorium shows a lot of potential and provides the listeners with a very enjoyable listening experience.1 of 1 thought this review was well written
Lithuania - a small country in Eastern Europe. People there have music running through their veins. It goes back to hundreds years ago, when music and traditional folk songs played a large part in every lithuanian's everyday life. But somehow, Lithuania is not so famous about is its musical scene, especially the metal music. Metal lives in a very rough environment – it's mostly shunned and underappreciated. In fact, ANY kind of heavy music is looked down upon. Even the genres that are popular worldwide, like metalcore, haven't found their niche here. Mostly overwhelmed by hundreds, no, THOUSANDS of wannabe bubblegum pop singers, the metal scene is relatively small. Bands that play heavy music are mostly concentrated in big cities, so if one is living in one of the smaller ones or the rural areas, the entire life might pass without even knowing about their existence.
Needless to say, I was one of those who blissfully ignored the metal scene in Lithuania. Hooked on the worldwide known names like Metallica, In Flames or Opeth, I didn't particularly cared to dig deeper into the heavy music of my own country. Yet one day, my friend sent me this EP... and I was simply dumbfounded. Before, I wouldn't have dared to thing that music like this existed somewhere so close to me. And yet Ossastorium showed me that nothing's impossible.
The bands' lineup on this album was:
Adomas Lapinskas – drums;
Paulius Vaitekunas – guitar;
Justinas Vabuolas – bass;
Saulius Rimas – guitar and vocals.
“Per Aspera...” is the debut EP by Ossastorium. It was released in 2004 through the local-based label Giljotina Records. Upon it's release, the EP received critical praise and was named Lithuania's death metal album of the year. It is raw, fast yet at the same time melodic. But the inexperience of the band is clearly noticeable.
That mostly happens in the song structuring. Almost all tracks feature a lengthy and melodic intro section before proceeding to the main part. Things get very predictable, but fortunately, the EP features only five fully fledged songs, so that flaw is only noticeable after repeated listens. One may wonder if that kind of song structuring would have worked in a long run.
Now, production is a somewhat double edged sword in this release. On one hand, it gives the guitars a rather strange, uncommon tone, which might annoy the listener. On the other hand, it gives the EP this raw and “edgy” sound. That is quite unusual, because most of the modern melodic death metal bands tend to go for a very streamlined production.
That being said, the EP sounds nothing like modern melodic death metal, even though I am using this term a lot in this review. There are no keyboards whatsoever, so the melody is actually built upon the guitar riffs, which is the way it supposed to be. There's also no trace of clean vocals, so it doesn't make things more acceptable to the casual listener. There is a noticeable Gothenburg influence (think “Whoracle” era In Flames), but don't be in a hurry to dismiss this just because of that – the influence is there, but it isn't too big. Some songs (“Liepsnose”, for example) don't even fit in within the modern melodeath sound. Yet there's no denying - the core sound of “Per Aspera...” is based around that particular genre, with elements of the more traditional death metal being prominent.
The instruments are handled with skill. Drumming is consistently solid. Though the drummer Adomas Lapinskas doesn't show off blast beats or very fast bass drum work, his style is adequate and compliments the guitars nicely. The bass, while audible (the fact that I found surprising, especially considering the “leave-the-bass-out” trend in metal), isn't thoroughly impressive. It mostly just accentuates the guitars. But it serves the band well - along with the drums, the bass creates a solid backbone, upon which the guitars can built the melodies.
With that in mind, the guitars themselves deserve a separate paragraph. The duo of Saulius Rimas and Paulius Vaitiekunas proves that they might be one of the most talented young guitarists to play the instrument ever. Their ability is showcased in the before-mentioned lengthy melodic intros, where they demonstrate not only relentless, menacing riffs, but they also manage to spice things up with nice dual guitar leads. Listen to tracks like “Audra” and “Ad Aspera” and you will understand. They also provide the solos, that (though not as fascinating as the leads) tend to have quite an impact in the songs. Also, some acoustic guitars are included for a good measure – most notably the soothing outro “Malda” and the intro to “Requiem” (which also has a bluesy sounding guitar to top it off).
The vocals could be met with mixed reactions, though. While vocalist Saulius Rimas possesses a clear and somewhat “crunchy” growl, which by no means is bad, it tends to get monotonous at times. Fortunately, the EP, as I mentioned before, has a very short running time. That, coupled with the fact that vocals aren't exactly abundant in the songs, proves to be the saving grace here. Vocals are also pretty low and brutal – not quite what I was expecting. It definitely adds some charm to the listening, though.
So, that was my first taste of death metal coming from my own country. I wasn't disappointed. And while not exactly reinventing the genre, Ossastorium shows a lot of potential and provides the listeners with a very enjoyable listening experience. Being the one of the few really good Lithuanian metal bands that I'm aware of, I can honestly say that I am proud to have this band representing the oppressed genre of metal in my homeland.