Over the last few years, I have really become a fan of the progressive death metal subgenre. The main thing keeping me from embracing it earlier was the presence of harsh vocals, but I have come to appreciate them, and especially the wide variety that are out there, too. So, when I see a new album in this subgenre in my inbox, I do get excited. The debut from Obsidian Tide, called “Pillars of Creation”, releases on August 29th, and it is definitely an album to get excited about, even for music lovers who haven’t quite embraced the death metal genre.
Obsidian Tide hails from Israel. You will notice that instantly through the mild accent in the vocals. The band consists of Oz Avneya on guitars and clean vox, Shachar Bieber on bass and harsh vox, and Erez Nadler on drums and programming. Several guests are present, as well, including: Mike LePond on bass, Omri Abramov on sax, Danielle Sassi on flute, Yuval Gur on violin, and Nitzan Habler on piano.
I have to say, this album caught me completely by surprise. Yes, I would call this progressive death metal, but the band incorporates many other genres and tones into their music, too. So, while you will hear the heavy guitars, the mix between clean and harsh vox, and the double bass blast beats, you will also hear spacey and restrained guitar licks, delicate keys, folksy violin work, pealing saxophone, and pastoral flutes. The band mixes all of this in such a mature fashion, so much so that it is difficult to believe this is a debut album.
“Pillars of Creation” just isn’t your typical prog death metal album. It isn’t just the novelty instruments that set it apart, either. The entire album is soaked with folkish splendor, but also with celestial glory and cinematic power. This album feels humongous, and I am drawn into its adventure instantly. Yet, the album also feels personal and artistic, especially due to Oz’s colorful clean vocals. Much of this plays into the concept of the album about a man on a journey of enlightenment who witnesses life-changing events and truths. You definitely feel like you are on a journey with him.
If I had to level one criticism, it would be towards the harsh vox. Over the years, I have come to appreciate this type of vocals, but some of the guttural vox here feel a bit forced into the music. I don’t dislike them specifically, per se, but I almost feel like this album could have been even better with all clean vox, or at least with clean plus the sharper side of the harsh. I know that is sacrilege when I am talking about a progressive death metal album, but the clean vox are just so good and the harsh just don’t add all that much.
This album has several highlight tracks. The title track leads off the album, and we get a song that sounds enormous, spacey, and cinematic. The band really gets your blood flowing and your interest perked here, and I love the way the epic percussion at the end continues directly into “Seven”. “King of a New Realm” is a gorgeous piece with a piano and nature sounds interlude that suddenly goes a bit haywire and neoclassical. The album does that quite often, taking a turn towards the unexpected.
The last half of the album might be the strongest part. “Hiraeth” is like a journey. The song passes through various tones, from cold and heavy to warm and nostalgic. It’s a pure joy to hear. My favorite track, though, might be “Magnanimous”, which ends the album with folksy quirk. Well, it starts out that way, but then blows up into death metal grandeur, transitioning then into a bluesy, saxophone-led instrumental of pure brilliance. The song and album ends with wistful wonder that fades into the horizon.
Overall, this is a very strong debut. Obsidian Tide has a strong sound, fantastic production and marketing styles, and tons of energy and lyrical depth. If you are a fan of Persefone or Ne Obliviscaris, you will definitely want to hear this album.