Review Summary: Obsidian Kingdom craft a different product using the same tools they had for “Mantiis”.
Obsidian Kingdom’s breakthrough was delicately executed. Emerging from Barcelona, Spain-a country where few metal bands originate- it seemed natural that the native genre of music they play would be hard to classify by the rest of the world. Their debut album “Mantiis” arrived in 2012 containing a vivid palette of emotions through a bizarre range of genres while the spiralling diversity it revealed was well received by most. 4 years later and the dreaded ‘follow-up-album’ expectations are evidently high for Obsidian Kingdom with “A Year With No Summer”.
The most obvious thing about this sophomore album is that it is a clear, and bold, directional shift from “Mantiis”. There are no screams of growls located here which boosted the intensity on “Mantiis” further; instead Zer0 Æmeour Íggdrasil uses a serenading tone that takes precedence over the majority of the album. Sometimes this smooth style works well on vibrant songs such as the title track but not so well on ‘Darkness’ where the vocals sound more of a drunken mumble than actual singing. However the coherency between songs on “A Year With No Summer” remains as flawless as they were on Obsidian Kingdom’s debut. With a span of 47 minutes over 7 songs there are no noticeable filler tunes here either, even the short instrumental ‘Polyarnik’ serves as an evolution between the heavier song that precedes it and the airier one that succeeds it.
“A Year With No Summer” certainly sounds different from “Mantiis” however the instrumentation formula they follow still applies. Actually, can Obsidian Kingdom’s music even be considered formulaic? Perhaps the erratic behaviour itself is ironically the systematic formula they choose to incorporate? If that is the case then the kaleidoscopic dynamics remain a potent ingredient to nailing their self-expressed “hard-to-classify” genre. ‘The Kandinsky Group’ is predominantly a metal song however each musical element is cocooned around an oxymoronic nature. For instance, the guitars have a funky fidget but they just sound lonesome; the breezes of ambience are featherlike in weight but still sound foreboding and the looming bass in ‘Darkness’ lays a gloomy foundation to the buoyant interludes within the song.
Obsidian Kingdom also sticks to a minimalistic approach when establishing an interlude or when building crescendos in “A Year With No Summer”. The 12 minute closer, ‘Away/Absent’, starts off energetically thanks to Ojete Mordaza’s animated drumming but gradually develops to the speed of a dead snail. The drone aspect lays immovable textures of unrest throughout the song. Even when facing Tool-esque bass grooves and the insectile scratching of guitars, the yawning synthesizer remains impenetrable yet transparent: you can see the other aspects occurring beyond the synth, but it always clouds your senses.
“A Year With No Summer” doesn’t quite pack the intensity levels to bite the head off of “Mantiis” however it is undoubtedly a decisive step in a different direction to see just how far the path of experimentalism can take Obsidian Kingdom’s music.