Artist: Obsolete Theory
Album Title: Downfall
Label: My Kingdom Music
Date of Release: 21 May 2021
Billed as ‘post black metal’ by the record label and PR peeps, I approached the sophomore album from Obsolete Theory, ‘Downfall’, with caution. I have often found the post black metal tab to be a rather wide, generous descriptor within which a whole host of different styles and ideas can sit. In essence, it can be a lazy catch-all. Not familiar with the debut, the oddly titled ‘Mudness’, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d hear when I pressed play for the first time. In the end, it turns out that Obsolete Theory’s version of post black metal is essentially a blend of black, death, and doom metal, with lashings of atmosphere thrown in for good measure. There are other elements to be heard within the inner workings of ‘Downfall’, but these are most definitely the key components.
For those unfamiliar with the band, Obsolete Theory are an Italian quintet that’s been in existence for over a decade. After a slow start that featured a demo and a couple of singles, it wasn’t until 2018 when the debut LP arrived. Thankfully, it has only taken a further three years for Messrs Daevil Wolfblood (vocals), Ow Raygon and Mordaul (guitars), Bolthorn (bass), and Savanth (drums) to create the follow-up, entitled ‘Downfall’. And, I must say that it isn’t a bad record either. It’s not perfect, but it is thoroughly entertaining.
‘Downfall’ is comprised of just six songs but with the shortest of these clocking in at over six-and-a-half minutes, there’s no shortage of material to enjoy. Indeed, the opening song on the record is the longest, at over eleven minutes. And in that time, Obsolete Theory do their best to cover as much ground as possible.
That opening song is entitled ‘Night Of Omen’ and it takes a fair amount of time to build, starting ominously with a steady, rhythmic beat and dark, brooding sounds, gently increasing in intensity over the course of three minutes or so. Clean, whispered vocals make an appearance, although sparingly, whilst the bass rumbles incessantly throughout, accented by subtle guitar notes. Eventually, the track bursts forth from its atmospheric cocoon with heavy guitar notes that hang to resonate whilst a deep guttural growl signifies that the intro is well and truly over. The ensuing riff is classic death/doom territory, as it slowly flattens the listener courtesy of a ponderous, deliberate pace. A moment of quiet minimalism then gives way to a faster tempo, with a prominent staccato lead guitar line, much more black metal in appearance. From hereon in, the black metal influences only grow, culminating in an irresistibly cold and dark yet catchy lead line atop blastbeats and rabid rasps, full of venom. All the while there’s plenty of atmosphere generated by electronic orchestration, but it’s the melodic nature of the song that hits home for me, despite its slightly repetitive nature that only serves to make it a rather hypnotic affair.
By contrast, ‘The Vanished’ features a much shorter intro before we’re straight into a catchy, groovy melodic death metal-sounding song where once again the lead guitar notes create the most notable melodies. However, the guitar and bass together seem to hit even lower sounds than previously heard to emphasise the genuine heaviness of the song. As the song develops, it reinvents itself via a more tribal-sounding vocal element, only to then launch into something more akin to a Dissection song and then, upon the cue of thunder and pouring rain, we’re back into melodic death/doom environs, complete with crushing riffs, deep clean crooning, interspersed by bursts of black metal freneticism. It’s fair to say that Obsolete Theory like to mix things up and make full use of the extended song lengths, a fact underlined by the atmospheric closing stages of the track where synths do their best to create an eerie panpipe outro.
‘Atë’ begins in unashamed funeral doom territory, bludgeoning us with slow, molten riffs and a mixture of clean and incredibly deep, gruff vocals, not to mention a melancholy vibe that’s perfectly in keeping with the tone of the song. At the halfway mark, the pace is increased whilst there’s the occasional injection of strange, unsettling sounds deep in the composition’s underbelly. The inclusion of an acoustic guitar is an unexpected one, but it signals the introduction of a more melodic and vaguely more upbeat closing segment where solemn clean vocals once again make an appearance.
A hint of djent as well as a stronger symphonic influence comes to the fore within ‘Onirica’, a song that comes across as a more straightforward composition with less twists and turns than other songs on the record. It’s deceptively melodic and is quick to get under the skin, even if you don’t realise it at first. There’s also an interesting use of those hammer-horror, Gothic keys within ‘Acherontia Atropos’, the type familiar with the music of bands like Cradle Of Filth, although they are used very sparingly and don’t dominate proceedings.
I have to admit that early spins of the second half of ‘Downfall’ were less favourable than the first half. However, the beauty of being able to listen to music without deadlines means that I have been able to listen frequently and carefully, meaning that my impression of the entire record has risen significantly. I’m still struggling to fully understand where Obsolete Theory place themselves stylistically because they do try to incorporate a myriad of influences into their music. It is either ambitious or leads to a lack of a clear identity depending on which side of the fence you sit. However, what is without question is that ‘Downfall’ is a thoroughly enjoyable slab of extreme metal that seeks to blend elements of doom, death and black metal into a cohesive whole. I like it, and I suspect that many others will too, if they give this band a chance. On the evidence of ‘Downfall’, Obsolete Theory’s musical theory is far from obsolete as far as I’m concerned.
The Score of Much Metal: 88%
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: