MMA Reviewer's Challenge: September 2016
Black metal has come a long way, and today's black metal landscape ranges from the raw and filthy end (e.g. Bahimiron and Nadiwrath) over the brutal variety (e.g. Svarttjern and Tsjuder) and the melodic variety (e.g. Darkenhöld and Denial of God) to the more elaborate and artsy end, where we find symphonic acts, such as Dimmu Borgir and Carach Angren, progressive acts, such as Enslaved, and avant-garde acts, such as Total Negation and Chryst. Oblomov's debut album "Mighty Cosmic Dance" belongs to the more artsy end of the black metal spectrum without being either avant-garde or weird.
The album opens with a spacey synth-based instrumental intro which explodes into 'Mentality Failure', and for a second, one might think that this is just going to be another black metal blastbeat-fest, but the song quickly goes down a path of variation and melody and culminates in an almost epic keyboard-enhanced final passage. The following track, 'Redefinition of the Past' opens with an extremely melodic section, which has more in common with traditional metal than black metal, but takes on a slightly more doom metal character for a while, before the tempo increases, as the song morphs into a blend of black metal and melodic thrash metal. By now, it is clear to the listener that Oblomov are not one of those black metal bands who only use two or three riffs, but a band who embraces variation.
The two first tracks are not bad at all, but it is only with 'Lost Between Emotions' that things get really interesting. In addition to the already varied and melodic style of Oblomov, this song features a really cool saxophone lead and even concludes with a very original combination of aggressive metal guitars and a folksy flute. At times bordering on the symphonic, the next track 'Starsend' also features a really cool saxophone lead and an epic choir. While less experimental, 'The Plague' is nonetheless also quite a musical experience.
After the sublime experience that is the triumvirate of 'Lost Between Emotions', 'Starsend', and 'The Blague', the heavier 'Nostalgic Idealization' feels a bit like a slowly deflating balloon, and 'Dreamworks' continues this trend. In all fairness, however, the latter features a very nice breakdown and subsequent instrumental section which together do blow a bit of air back into the balloon before the album is concluded by an outro which, like the intro, is a spacey synth-based instrumental.
The primary generator of melody is the band's use of melodic leads, be it guitar leads, saxophone leads or keyboard leads, but there are several instances where the riffs themselves seem to be inherently melodic. This is definitely something a person like me, who admittedly has never learned to appreciate the more barren and raw genres of black metal, can get behind. Moreover, I really like how much variation there is on this album, and it is clear that the band had a real artistic vision when they made this album. However, the things that I appreciate about "Mighty Cosmic Dances" are likely, I think, to be features that many black metal fans will reject. The variation might be seen as unfocused and the melodic orientation as poppy, and, overall, the album is probably as non-kvlt as can be. Thant again, who gives a fuck about that? But, even though I have a lot of appreciation for the album, it is not an album that I love without reservation. The high point is definitely the sublime triumvirate of 'Lost Between Emotions'/'Starsend'/'The Plague', but after that, the album quickly loses its energy and, sadly, limps out the backdoor.
Still, it's not a bad album, and I can see myself listening to some of the songs repeatedly in the future, but it is probably not an album I will listen to from beginning to end very many times.