Artist: Nailed To Obscurity
Album Title: King Delusion
Label: Apostasy Records
Date Of Release: 3 February 2017
Melodic death/doom metal is a niche genre that has always found favour with me. I love the blend of extremity combined with dark, bleak atmospheres and melancholic beauty; it is the perfect blend for people like me. So I had to review the new album, ‘King Delusion’ from German quintet Nailed To Obscurity, their third in a career that has now spanned over a decade.
Despite my general love of this genre, I am the first to admit that the scene has become saturated by a sea of bands that have sought to hang onto the coat tails of those that spawned this style in the first place. It therefore becomes ever harder to effectively sort the wheat from the chaff and occasionally, I will make a faux pas. Most evident on the strength of ‘King Delusion’, is not having given Nailed To Obscurity a fair crack of the whip over the years. I really enjoyed ‘Opaque’ when it was released four years ago but never explored much further.
The German quintet, comprised of vocalist Raimund Ennenga, guitarists Jan Ole Lamberti and Volker Dieken, bassist Carsten Schorn and drummer Jann Hillrichs do not reinvent the melodic death/doom wheel. Nevertheless, ‘King Delusion’ is a thoroughly engaging eight-track record that takes its cue from very early Katatonia, Daylight Dies and even a soupcon of Insomnium. Loving all of these bands as I do, it is hardly surprising that I like the resultant output of Nailed To Obscurity. Loosely following the blueprint of a forerunner though is not a guaranteed route to success. I have lost count of the number of bands I have heard that have failed dreadfully at doing just this. Nailed To Obscurity however, are not one of these. Their influences are clear to hear but what they do, they do very well. They inject their music with plenty of quality and a smattering of originality to make their offering well worth listening to.
That originality comes through via an injection of post-metal to keep things more current and interesting. This element is most obvious within ‘Apnoea’, a two-minute instrumental interlude of sorts. It is dark, depraved and foreboding, but also hauntingly melancholy and ever so slightly beautiful. It might even be my favourite two minutes on the record, as those guitars create a wonderfully potent noise.
There’s even a brief detour into more instantly accessible Gothic territory courtesy of the gorgeously rich and inviting ‘Deadening’.
But that said, the bulk of ‘King Delusion’ has its roots firmly planted in the melodic death/doom scene and it is where this band truly belongs. The opening notes are borderline discordant and jangling, before the meatiness of the death riffs join the fray, bulldozing all in its meandering path. As the track gets into full swing, those melodic lead guitar lines are unleashed that more than hint at early Katatonia, but rather than baulk at them, I embrace them because they are so well placed and well executed.
Having listened to this record a fair few times now, I find it hard to identify a weak track anywhere. Each of the compositions offers something to tempt me into a repeated listen, be it a grim atmosphere, a seductive lead guitar line or Ennenga’s deep and guttural voice that counterpoints the brittle melodies and which only occasionally breaks into clean territory.
I have to conclude however, that the second half is the stronger in my opinion, dominated as it is by the undeniable centrepiece, the 12-minute epic ‘Uncage My Sanity’. To use that overused cliché, it takes the listener on a journey that twists and turns (or more accurately slithers) through aural highs and lows and juxtaposing ideas that come together surprisingly cohesively. The standout section for me is around the half-way mark where the heaviness completely drops away in favour of a deeply atmospheric, minimalist soundscape that builds to dramatic effect whilst keeping the melodiousness intact.
Either side of this is ‘Memento’ and ‘Devoid’, both of which are killer tracks which share a similar, slightly more upbeat structure. Dare I say it, they are both undeniably catchy, pulling me in from the first listen. They both just get better with repeated listens too.
‘Memento’ is ushered in by minimalist post-rock sounds before a delightful lead guitar line takes precedence and around which, the track is built. It is full-on goosebump territory as the full power of the entire band kicks in to devastating effect. The tone of the track shifts as it develops, including a segment that is reminiscent of mid-era Dark Tranquillity via the sampled sounds. But central to the piece is the vibrant bass of xx and the way in which the majority of the song skips along at an infectious pace.
‘Devoid’ on the other hand is heavy but has the air of a much softer song somehow. The melodies are bittersweet and in addition to the rumbling riff and striking lead guitar dual combo that typifies Nailed To Obscurity, there’s a brief foray into something much quieter and soulful buried in the centre of the song. And that’s all without mentioning the anthemic closing passage which is just a miserable joy.
Thanks to ‘King Delusion’, Nailed To Obscurity should no longer resemble their moniker and remain obscure and on the fringes. It might not be the most unique-sounding album but when it is delivered in such an assured and professional way, who cares? I thoroughly enjoy listening to ‘King Delusion’ and have no hesitation in saying that Nailed To Obscurity have put down an early marker in 2017 for all other bands of a melodic death/doom persuasion.
The Score Of Much Metal: 8.5
If you’ve enjoyed this review, check out my others from previous years and for 2017 right here:
Helion Prime – Helion Prime
Battle Beast – Bringer Of Pain
Persefone – Aathma
Soen – Lykaia
Exquirla – Para Quienes Aun Viven
Odd Logic – Effigy
Mors Principium Est – Embers Of A Dying World
Firewind – Immortals
Slyde – Back Again EP
Sepultura – Machine Messiah
Deserted Fear – Dead Shores Rising
Kreator – Gods Of Violence
Borealis – World of Silence MMXVII
Pain of Salvation – In The Passing Light of Day