Obsequiae - The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings
Obsequiae established a very well-defined style on their first record, and they've stuck with it ever since. The Palms Of Sorrowed Kings is their third album, and much like the second one, it offers subtle refinements and expansions of their sound, but no big surprises. If you haven't heard them, it's a great place to start; if you have, you know what to expect.
That's not a bad thing at all. If you like what they do, you'll like this album. It's chock full of flowing, triumphant medieval-European-flavored melodies and dual guitar interplay, reminding me of certain parts of Opeth's Orchid along with some other 90s melodic death, black, and folk metal. The songs remain generally mid-paced and propulsive, with the occasional blastbeat or meter shift, but nothing outlandish; the expected harp interludes are pretty-sounding, moody without being gloomy. The sense of atmosphere is well-realized and pervasive. A caustic vocal rasp echoes from within, I dunno, monastery walls? Tombs of ancient warriors? Something.
So, what's different this time around? More complex, layered songwriting and musicianship; more prominent and interesting bass lines; a detailed, full-sounding mix that's a lot more clear than their debut and more powerful than the sterile sound of their last recording; a couple of sections with clean vocal harmonies that fit in nicely, and even a spoken word bit. The details add up to a compelling experience.
My one real complaint about this band has been how homogeneous their stuff is. Every song tends to sound like a variation on the same couple of ideas, and that can make it all come across as a bit of a gimmick. I'm a fan of melodic metal and I love medieval Western music, so it's a gimmick I've enjoyed. This album doesn't feel like a gimmick. It's not some great departure, but it's not a mere rehashing, either; it's deeper, clearer, more varied and nuanced than their other material. I have a special place in my heart for the energy and rough edges of their debut, and there's plenty of nice stuff on Aria Of Vernal Tombs, but this might actually be the best thing they've done.