Obliteration: Black Death Horizon

Norse death squad summon the void

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While it is to the genre’s credit that death metal can mean so many things to many different people, the original spirit that made the early works of such legends as Autopsy, Nunslaughter and Master so integral to extreme music’s evolution remains proudly impervious to time’s inexorable march. The reality is that no amount of Pro Tools tinkering or twinkling sonic modernity can reproduce the unearthly ambience that seeped from the cracks in those seminal genre milestones.

Death metal doesn’t have to be ragged, sloppy and creepy as hell, but it is considerably more effective and emotionally overpowering when it is. Flying that flag with aplomb, despite their youth, Obliteration have been one of the most exciting bands to emerge from Norway in years and Black Death Horizon cements their burgeoning reputation with gruesome panache.

Maybe their proximity to the grim squall of the black metal realm and its contempt for neatness and polish has had a significant influence on their avowedly filthy sound. Or, perhaps, their atavistic instincts are as intuitive as their riffs are repulsive. Either way, this is the real putrefied deal.

Eschewing polish and precision in favour of zombie-like slow-motion stagger and runaway hearse blast’n’rattle, songs like Goat Skull Crown and Sepulchral Rites adhere to ancient codes and values while never forgetting that mortality hinges on the transience of the now, as funereal sludge and inhuman clatter collide in a shower of bone fragments and hissing pus. On the prolonged torture of Transient Passage, these Norse malcontents exhibit a profound desire to disturb and disorientate, leading with a collage of angular and discordant doom riffs and then erupting into an untamed melee of claustrophobic aggression, chaotic dissonance and lead breaks worthy of Morbid Angel’s genre-defining Altars Of Madness.

Squalor and despair seldom sounded so exciting. And yet, for every one of their nods to death metal’s hallowed past, a thrumming undercurrent of originality permeates throughout. Peaking with the seven-minute cesspool of the title track and unashamedly Mental Funeral-like outro, Churning Magma (what a title!), Obliteration have embraced death and death metal with equal enthusiasm and the results are both mesmerising and deliciously unsettling.

Dom Lawson

Dom Lawson has been writing for Metal Hammer and Prog for over 14 years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He also contributes to The Guardian, Classic Rock, Bravewords and Blabbermouth and has previously written for Kerrang! magazine in the mid-2000s.