Exile On Mainstream – 21st April 2017
It begins with a howl of feedback. Of course it does. The sustain continues through the opening power chords: doomy, slow, before it all comes crashing in, trudging tempo and gut-churningly downtuned.
Obelyskkh’s fourth album isn’t so much about surprises, but about continuing – and extending – the trajectory of its predecessors, albeit with a greater emphasis on groove. Not that this is an album you can dance to: it’s very much one to slow headbang to. The press release draws attention to the fact that the album’s title ‘evokes one of H. P. Lovecraft’s iconic poems, providing inspiration for the album’s lyrical content and the artwork for The Providence. Another dimension to the album is illustrated almost perfectly by French revolutionist Victor Hugo: “Above all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, either as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in the whip.” The band lived by this message throughout their uphill battle to complete the record.’
It’s taken them four years, and The Providence feels like four years’ anguish and slog distilled into six immense pieces. The title track, which opens the set, is twelve minutes long. It’s not pretentious, but heavy with portent: this is a vast doomscape of an album, dominated by some colossal guitar riffery, propelled by a juggernaut of a rhythm section.
Things get a bit progressive folk-metal in the middle of ‘Raving Ones,’ but when the riff hits its stride, it’s a throbbing, driving rush. Elsewhere, ‘Northern Lights’ veers toward classic, vintage horror, with a deluge of cataclysmic guitars burning a purgatorial furrow on the scale of the Grand Canyon. And just when the thick distortion threatens to burn out the eardrums, a shift toward upper frequency overload provides the punishing attack needed to complete the abominable mission. The fourteen-minute ‘NYX’ stands as the album’s centrepiece, and is a classic slab of thunderous, sludgy doom metal. Over the course of a succession of passages, it grinds its way to a punishing critical mass, with velocity consumed by density.
Clocking in at under six minutes, ‘Aeons of Iconoclasm’ feels almost throwaway in its brevity. Fear chords weave and waft almost subliminally, and it feels at first like a mere interlude, but then the gates of hell open and every screaming demon ever known tears down from the blackest of skies.
In contrast, the slow, but so, so, dense guitar overload of ‘Marzanna’ feels like a gentle wind-down, although at over nine and a half minutes of roaring thunder and groaning, droning, slowed riffage and mangled vocals that squeeze Sabbath through a Melvins filter it’s hardly some kind of loungecore fluff.
Everything about The Providence is immense. This is heavyweight, it’s doomy metal exactly the way it should be.