Hidden in plain sight, there is some fine metal being released- even in recent years. Nestled in the convoluted release schedule of one of the most popular indie rock labels (although in fairness, Profound Lore has gotten death metal right before) is a rare foray into dissonant death metal grandeur that is certainly worthy of praise. The newest solo project by Numinas/Crom/Dario Denerio, whose well-ventured resume also includes Infestor, Khrom, and Evoken, Ritual Chamber’s 2016 full length debut Obscurations (to Feast on the Seraphim) masterfully imports the lost wisdom of classic death metal spirit into a contemporary flesh of sound and production. Suffering from poor marketing through mainstream channels and tired aesthetic trends that mask its originality, this cultured release flew well off the radar of the audience it was most suited for and was not digestible enough for the retro/rehash death metal crowd of hipster swine it mostly reached. But although it initially evaded the underground’s most trustworthy mediums, Death Metal Underground’s undying commitment to unearthing the best in the genre now gives us a late opportunity to acknowledge a great work of elegance.
Obscurations creates a dense texture of marvelous bedlam, masterfully using the inharmonious riffing of Demoncy to disorient the listener as climactic builds are quickly torn down into further depths of abyss. It’s what Demigod’s Slumber of Sullen Eyes would sound like if caught in a violent malestrom that ripped all of its melodic moments into nauseating dissonance- dissonance that is illustriously used to convey an abstraction of absolute malcontent. Each motif is a half step away from a harmonious melody but is quickly pulled into diseased discordance… even in the form of clashing minor seconds that are often considered a musical error rather than a sought after compositional tool. Occasional war metal type blastbeats (with each instrument hitting on the same count) color the slow pacing with moments of order before the album’s graveling tone rips it back into it’s black hole of musical decimation.
The album in a way personifies the antimatter that creeps through the furthest reaches of our solar system- an immeasurable unity of otherwise contradictory astrophysics in music form. Unrelenting in it’s dissonant madness, the album’s collection of anti-melodies somehow finds itself fulfilling in it’s composition and tangible in it’s delivery. What is ultimately a harvest of seemingly random chaotic elements actually ends up being a sensible communication of it’s thematic intent, somehow both defying musical barriers and finding itself satisfyingly within their bounds.
Musically this album is abrasively defiant of death metal standard throughout its thoughtful use of modern production and compositional recklessness, yet by being so it manages to deliver the classic spirit of the genre’s greatest works by demonstrating a dexterous understanding of the riffing and atmosphere that made those early 90’s death metal works so great. This alone makes it a desired gift for long-suffering fans of the more nuanced aspects of the genre. However vocally, lyrically, and aesthetically the album fails to match the musical creativity and instead relies on tired trends and overdone themes. If true occultism is what is hidden and unknown then relying so heavily on virtue signaling the same symbolism and terminology through lyrics, song/album titles, and artwork ends up contradicting the intended theme and getting albums like this buried in a landfill of useless and soulless releases. The album is steps away from being a long awaited classic, but it’s gutless use of monotonous gutteral vocals and overplayed imagery have kept such a fate just out of reach.
Still, the music on Obscurations is brilliant enough to carry the entire release and makes it a worthy listen to those looking for something more fulfilling than what we’ve been given the last twenty years. The album is a monument to Brett’s Hidden Metal Theory and proof that great metal is still worth the effort to seek out and unearth. It is furthermore a glimpse of hope in an otherwise unpromising future of death metal- a glimpse that should be just enough to trek onward to what may or may not be over the horizon.