Lament, grievance, hatred, reflection, desolation. Those could be the five steps of reaction to a wrenching loss or to a wrong inflicted, the steps of an emotional processing that doesn’t end well. Those are also the titles, in order, of the songs on Lament, the remarkable 2012 EP by San Francisco’s Obolus.
The songs flow together, like a five-part suite, creating an immersive atmosphere that’s both beautiful and harrowing in its intensity. The sound of rain begins each song except the one called “Hatred”, and as the music slowly fades at the EP’s end, it rains again. Clouds hang heavy overhead throughout. Storm fronts move through and lash the listener, with brief moments of respite from the deluge before the next front begins its assault.
The first song (“Lament”) is a relatively short instrumental-only piece, comparatively subdued, with no drums to provide an undercurrent of power. The music is slow and sad, consisting principally of a layered acoustic and electric guitar melody.
The following track, “Grievance”, at first continues the mood, slowly building in volume and intensity until a surge of feedback breaks the repeating melody and the song explodes in an attack of blasting drums and a wall of distorted guitar noise. A harrowing, incoherent shrieking can be heard (as it can on “Hatred” and “Desolation”), but just barely, because it’s an almost indiscernible part of the dense background shroud of battering percussion and guitar distortion. A tremolo melody rolls through the haze in repeating waves, enhancing the song’s emotional intensity.