Review Summary: Nostalgic yet slightly progressive, ‘Black Death Horizon’ has carved its own niche on the modern definition of the death metal genre.
There is a palpable sense of intensity surrounding the music of the death metal outfit Obliteration. Originating in the Norwegian town of Kolbotn, the birthplace of Darkthrone, the band’s sophomore effort- 2009’s ‘Nekropsalms’- marked a dynamic progression in their sound, hallmarked with creativity over extended song structures and well-implemented doom influences. Arguably the album constituted one of the strongest releases of the year, surpassing its competitors with a plethora of engaging takes on a fundamentally traditional approach. As such, its successor, the titular ‘Black Death Horizon’, was awaited with no shortfall of expectation. Fortunately, whilst not reinventing or wildly innovating on its antecedent, it has most certainly delivered.
A pleasant weighty crunch, incidentally exacerbated by the album’s occasionally muddy production, meets the listener from the first impression. Riffs vary from stately doom progressions to faster, more chaotic affairs reminiscent of the earlier works of Death- the dilation in song length allows for each of these elements to be aptly interwoven. Despite sporadic disparities these shifts in tempo are taut and engaging. Their bass accompaniment is impressive throughout, creative lines allowing for a rich and textured sound. The drumming is also sharp, although it fails to vary sufficiently from slow, methodical patterns and the converse crashing blastbeats. The feel is one of a traditional death metal sound, drawing on the tropes of the 1980s, but one with more alternation without losing the definitive clout.
Continuing in the traditional vein are the vocals, which take the form of the quasi-black metal shriek rather than the more guttural alternative. Whilst respectable, it should be stressed that ‘Black Death Horizon’ is more instrumentally adept. Lyrics adopt a backseat role as accompaniment, and, whilst of a nostalgic twinge, do not add anything new or innovative to the mixture. However, this does not detract from the album’s overall cohesion. Standing upon the solid basis of death metal’s origins, ‘Black Death Horizon’ is sufficiently distinct from both modern and past stylisations so as to compete as, although unsurprising, an enticingly raw listen.
Whilst ‘Black Death Horizon’ is not the forward-thinking reinvention that ‘Nekropsalms’ made over Obliteration’s debut, that is not to discredit its merit as one of the more impressive death metal albums of 2013. Although riffing on the styling of the 1980s, its drawing on a hotchpotch of doom and more modern influences affords it a signature sound that offers more musicianship and capability than the majority of its contemporaries. Nostalgic yet slightly progressive, ‘Black Death Horizon’ has carved its own niche on the modern definition of the death metal genre.