California’s Flenser Records has become one of the go-to labels for infinitely interesting black metal and doom releases over the past few years, and Lament, the debut EP from the mysterious black metal entity known as Obolus is no exception. Information on the band is virtually non-existent; their Metal Archives page yields no answers and the Flenser is keeping things decidedly on the down-low when it comes to details. I prefer my black metal with a dose of mystique and it’s fun to speculate about Obolus’ origins; is this the the work of one twisted individual or a like-minded group of musicians? Who are they and where do they come from? Ultimately, it doesn’t matter as long as the music’s good, and lament is certainly one of the better black metal releases I’ve come across so far in 2012.
Striking a balance between the agonizing depths of depressive black metal practitioners such as Leviathan and Xasthur and the smeared, shoegaze-esque atmospherics of more recent acts like Deafheaven and Ash Borer, Obolus draws from a wide range of influences to create a unique blackened vision. It isn’t quite “bedroom” black metal and it isn’t quite “blackgaze” (I’m not a fan of either of those terms) either, but rather something that falls in between the two styles; an intensely personal, introspective descent into the midnight of the soul.
For me (as I’m sure is the case for many listeners) black metal is more about a feeling and an atmosphere than it is about more conventional metal trappings such as riffs or blastbeats. In this key aspect Lament more than succeeds; in just twenty minutes, Obolus creates an almost unbearably dreary soundscape, not so much a nightmare but more like a profoundly sad dream. Maybe it has something to do with the cover art or simply the EP’s title, but when listening to Lament I can’t seem to help but recall all the times I’ve been visited by deceased loved ones from beyond the wall of sleep; that same mesmerizing feeling of loss and otherworldliness permeates these five songs.
Lament offers a brief yet immensely satisfying taste of what Obolus is capable of; I look forward to seeing what they (he/she?) can do with a full length release. If the blackened, hypnotic reverie on display here is anything to go by, it will no doubt be something to behold. In the meantime we have Lament to haunt both our waking hours and our dreams.