Friday 11 January 2019

Oblivions Kiss - The Swallow and the Blue Bird (2019)

Country: Germany
Style: Gothic/Doom Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 6 Jan 2019
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Metal Archives | Official Website

"I am Lucifer, Lightbringer," mutters Jule on the opening Chapter I intro piece but the album promptly dives into the darkness. The production here is... well, I'm not convinced that there is any production here. I've heard rehearsal tapes that are far slicker than this. It feels like this German trio set up all their instruments in the basement of an abandoned castle overlooking Hamburg, recorded the whole album live in one take and then dropped it onto Bandcamp for the world to notice.

That said, there's a vitality here that engaged me. I'm actually not complaining with that basement comment or with the one take comment. In many ways, this reminds me of days a couple of decades ago exploring (remember that?) and finding all sorts of odd bands who only had a couple of tracks to their name but who had somehow found something original to say.

This certainly has something original to say to me. Most metal bands who add gothic into their musical tags do so because there's a particular style they want as part of their sound. Oblivions Kiss (that missing apostrophe really bugs me) actually feel gothic. There's real despair here in tracks like Divine Descent and a sense of doom that has nothing to do with just playing slowly. There's style here too, but, most importantly, there's mood as well. Some of these songs simply ache at us through the speakers. The statue on the front cover may well shed a tear of exquisite pain.

I think a lot of that springs from the band's overt influences. Initially this felt like a My Dying Bride rehearsal tape, but this isn't remotely death/doom, even with Tom's occasional softened harsh vocals adding texture beneath the clean but tormented voice of Jule. Then old school goth sounds crept in to make themselves very noticed too: there's a lot of downbeat Sisters of Mercy here, some Bauhaus too and even some Joy Division and Dead Can Dance. That's not all of it, but I can't trace everything backwards.

By the end of Grand Theatre of Tragedy, the first of three nine minute epics on the album, I was convinced that its title has meaning. As far as I'm aware, this is just an album of new music, but I couldn't get past the conviction that there's an absent visual element too. Stillborn especially feels like a conversation, perhaps between a demon and a fallen angel, and there just has to be something going on visually while the keyboards and bass noodle softly and the insanely patient guitar waits for its moment to crunch. But is it a ballet or an opera or a ritual? Maybe it's avant garde performance art.

Like all the best art, Oblivions Kiss are emphatically not for everyone. Most people are going to hate this album with a passion, but if you like it even a little, then you're going to absolutely adore it like me.

This is music for people who think that My Dying Bride are ruthlessly commercial. It's outrageously depressing, perhaps because there's a glorious emptiness pervading the album, with many sections featuring Jule's voice overlaid on almost nothing, but it's not depressing in a suicidal way. After almost an hour, I felt spiritually purged and creatively reinvigorated.

This is music to write sonnets to, while wearing velvet smoking jackets. Enjoy with absinthe. Outdoors. At dusk.

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