Like the Japanese shapeshifting creature from which Obake take their name, leader Eraldo Bernocchi has taken many guises during his decades in music.
Starting with punk bands in Italy in the late 70s, in the 80s he turned to the avant-garde, forming Sigillum-S, a dark ambient/industrial outfit still active today. In the 90s he became a serial collaborator, forming bands and performing with the likes of Bill Laswell, Mick Harris, Harold Budd, Zu, DJ Olive and Robin Guthrie.
Tonight sees Obake back at The Underworld, where they’d previously headlined the Saturday night of Desertfest 2015. The doom-centric band top a lengthy bill of avant-doom bands, which Bernocchi himself opens with side-project Blackwood.
Things seem to be running behind schedule, and a cold Thursday night means it’s a less celebratory atmosphere than on their previous visit. Opening number Thanatos is a seismic blast, the grinding riff grabbing our attention instantly, although eschewing the electronics of the studio version.
Seven Rotten Globes continues in the same vein, with singer Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari triggering elaborate vocal effects. Technical issues see a drum being hurled across the stage, but Jacopo Pierazzuoli (also of MoRkObOt) channels his anger into Seth Light. This song sees some light being added to the band’s shade, with the dying seconds featuring some ringing guitar from Bernocchi. But this is followed by debut album opener Human Genome Project, which again has the band stripping the song back to its basic essentials.
It’s only during Second Death Of Foreg that we finally see them step away from the unrelenting riffing, the band dropping away to leave Bernocchi picking, soon joined by a wash of electronics and underpinned by a dub bassline from Porcupine Tree’s Colin Edwin. Some chanting from Lorenzo, a marching beat from Jacopo and a wave of distortion floating over it all give us five very prog-friendly minutes until the mammoth riffs return.
Burnt Down picks up this subtler style again, Edwin’s bass now more of a feature, carrying the melody as Bernocchi adds a cloud of shoegazing blur. Another genial introduction from Edwin and set staple Dog-Star Ritual sees a funkier turn by the band, quickly followed by the doom/shoegaze mix of Transfiguration. Set closer M takes things to epic new heights, which is sadly at odds with a now depleted audience.
There’s plenty here for aficionados of aggressive music and prog alike, but the band deserved better from a post-Christmas graveyard slot.