The list of metal bands that have attempted to incorporate various elements of folk or classical music is a long, often desolate, highway littered with the corpses of albums gone absolutely haywire. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your view, that list just continues to grow as the whole “Folk Metal” thing has continued to blow up over the last decade plus. Very, very few of those bands though have ever come close to successfully melding together genres of music as distinct as heavy metal and traditional music from the Medieval and Baroque periods as Minnesota’s Obsequiae. Frankly, they may all die trying and still never achieve this level of genre fusion success.
Assorted forms of classical music have been intertwined with heavy metal for quite some time. Bands as varied as Therion to the campy guitar wiz, The Great Kat, have attempted to show a direct link from classical music’s most poignant eras to heavy metal’s most brutal. But, again, the level of success of every artist that has ever attempted such an amalgamation is scattered at best…until now. Obsequiae decided somewhere on their musical journey that a solid source material to interpret into a shredding metal album would reflect certain Medieval musical elements. What we were gifted was the first Obsequiae album, which absolutely turned any unsuspecting listener who stumbled upon it right on their head. Now Obsequiae have returned with their masterful follow-up album, Aria of Vernal Tombs, the end result of which is nothing short of being one of the most unique and complete metal albums you will hear this year.
The album opens with “Ay que por muy gran fremosura,” a three-minute, lush harp piece that kicks off with the calling of a wild bird over the hushed tones of the calling wind. It’s a distinctively beautiful piece of music that empties like a river into a raging sea of blackened riffs over a tolling bell. The follow up track, “Autumnal Pyre,” is an absolutely deadly cross between the earliest outputs of bands like Dissection and Amorphis, and the one two punch of these tracks lays the groundwork for the rest of the album like a great tree laying roots deep into the Earth. The entire album is a massive collection of influences culled together like sacred fruits stolen from a forbidden garden under a Summer moon. Obsequiae wear their metal in the color black, but it’s a shade not too dark to combine elements of death and traditional metals. Meanwhile these blackened outbursts are intertwined with serene breaks where Medieval harp pieces and the innocent sounds of nature are allowed to dwell just long enough to bestow visions of fair maidens walking amongst the courtyards of great castles, only to be shattered again and again like broken glass against the hammer of cold, cruel black metal.
There are a choice few artists that can master the art of the meeting between the utterly sacred and the gorgeously profane, and Obsequiae are one of those artists. This is a band that has taken the idea of a sonic juxtaposition and turned it into and absolute masterwork that is sure to stand the test of time the same way the album’s source material has done.
Aria of Vernal Tombs is out via 20 Buck Spin on May 12. You can taste test the album with the two aforementioned opening tracks at the 20 Buck Spin Bandcamp page.