Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Obscura Qalma - From the Sheol to the Apeiron (2019)



Country: Italy
Style: Blackened Death Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 5 Apr 2019
Sites: Facebook | Metal Archives | YouTube

I've been exploring less extreme territory over the last few days, so I felt like a dip into something more blistering today. Obscura Qalma, a blackened death metal outfit from Venice (in Italy, not California) seemed to fit the bill and this four track EP does its thing very well without outstaying its welcome. That gorgeous cover doesn't hurt either!

The band describe themselves as "blackened heavily orchestrated death metal" in the vein of Behemoth and Septic Flesh. They have the variety and talent needed to get away with that comparison too, though the mix does elevate the admirable assault of Res on drums above everything else. He's a bludgeoning drummer at heart, even if he's more than able to match the lead guitar with speed. I love how he ends Roots of Evil and I love how he doesn't just hit one drum hard to drive his beat, he hits about a dozen as if he has arms to spare. I'd bet his spirit animal is an octopus.

Below those dominating drums, there's an enticing noise going on. The voice of Sirius is a relatively clean death growl and he battles to be heard over choral sections that swell up behind him, especially on more overtly orchestral numbers like Apokalepse. There are two guitarists here and they're vicious in their approach, often reminding of power tools slicing through anything in play at any particular time.

None of these songs run long, Misanthropic Perception almost reaching five and a half minutes and nothing else coming close, so the EP feels short at almost eighteen minutes. However, there's a lot going on as it gets there and the mix makes it particularly immersive. We strain to catch everything and find that it won't leave us alone.

That goes double for tracks such as Haze of Reason, which refuse to set a pace. Every time we believe we know what speed they're going to be working at, they change it on us. It's fast and it's slow. It's mid-paced and it's ambient. It's everywhere at once and I couldn't get enough of it. It often feels like everyone in the band is playing a different song but they oddly combine into something very tasty. Or maybe they're all playing a few songs but they're being broadcast on close frequencies and we tune in and out of them at will.

I dug this from the beginning, Misanthropic Perception being an immediate highlight, but nothing comes close to Haze of Reason here. At points it's almost industrial, with those bludgeoning drums creating a wild rhythm and what sound like valves expelling steam. Then it goes ambient. Then it leaps back into galloping speed. Then it calms. Then it blisters. Then the choir joins in. I've listened to this track half a dozen times and I'm still not fathoming quite what it does. I just know that I love it.

And that, to a lesser degree, describes this EP. Sure, Obscura Qalma have a fondness for Behemoth but I haven't heard anything quite like this before and I see that as a good thing. Sheol is the Hebrew underworld and "apeiron" is a Greek word meaning "infinite" or "unlimited". That means that this EP is very well titled indeed. Now let's have a full album!

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