(This is Andy Synn‘s review of the debut album by the Israeli band Obsidian Tide, which was released on August 29th.)
It’s an exciting time to be a fan of the proggy end of the Rock/Metal spectrum.
Not only have Tool just released their long-awaited fifth album, but the end of the month will see the release of both a brand new Opeth record AND a remixed/remastered (and even proggier) version of Cynic’s brilliant 2008 comeback album, Traced In Air.
But what if I told you that a little-known group from Israel had recently released an album combining the best elements of all three of those bands?
Would you be interested?
I thought you might.
Over the course of seven tracks, totalling just under fifty-five minutes, the Tel Aviv trio shower you with an array of musical riches as vibrant as they are varied, from crisp acoustic guitars to strident metallic riffs, emotive clean vocals, riveting growls, complex time signatures and rock-solid rhythms, all embellished with splashes of saxophone, flute, violin, and piano.
And while this might sound more like a recipe for excess, rather than success, it shouldn’t take more than a single listen to the mesmerising title track to realise that Obsidian Tide know exactly what they’re doing.
I’ll grant you, from a purely objective perspective the band are perhaps still a little too indebted to their most obvious influences (I also hear a fair bit of Extol and Porcupine Tree too), but it’s hard to remain objectively dispassionate about songs like “Seven” and “Portent of Betrayal” when you’re caught up in the band’s particular brand of Progressive (sometimes Death) Metal, in all its deviously dynamic, smartly bombastic, shamelessly catchy glory.
Picking out specific highlights to… well, highlight… is remarkably difficult as a result, since there’s not a weak track among them, and every song has something different and remarkable that helps it stand out from its brothers.
“King of a New Realm”, for example, is eight minutes of moody melodies and creative guitar work that surprises the listener with an unexpected digression into poignant piano and soothing ambience part way through, while “Hireath” features some of the album’s best vocals, both clean and harsh, as well as a plethora of eloquently layered melodic/metallic textures.
Then there’s “The Harbinger and the Millennial Vengeance”, which showcases not only some of the hardest-hitting riffs on the album, but also some of the best goddamn bass work this side of Geddy Lee.
By the time you hit epic closer “Magnanimous” – which, at an extravagant eleven minutes, manages to be constantly surprising, without ever becoming confusing, and endlessly exciting, without ever feeling overstuffed – you’ll probably have formed a pretty strong opinion about Pillars of Creation, which really feels to me like the sort of album which you either fall in love with unconditionally, or are totally unable to understand what all the fuss is about.
Personally I’m absolutely smitten with what I’m hearing here, and there’s a very good chance that this will be making a prominent appearance on my End of the Year list come December.