Atrophied in Anguish
posted on 10/2012 By:
It's always a rather interesting and humbling experience as a reviewer to cover a band that has been toiling away in almost complete obscurity for as long as Germany's Obscenity has. I was initially anticipating a young band of upstarts, but Obscenity's first release dates all the way back to 1992, and they have put out albums consistently since their formation, with Atrophied in Anguish being their eighth full-length overall.
Without being too snarky, it's becomes a little easier to understand why Obscenity hasn't really found an audience up until this point, if their music on this album is representative of their body of work as a whole. A busy and somewhat scatterbrained mixture of several different interpretations of death metal, Atrophied in Anguish is the kind of album that never really establishes a true identity for itself, despite doing plenty of things right in terms of execution. On a presentation level, this album has the trappings of a group of experienced musicians, but I just couldn't connect with what the band was trying to do artistically -- the style on display here is a little too hard to get a bead on, and in this case a little more niche-pandering would have served them well.
Obscenity's brand of somewhat technical, slightly polished, marginally raw death metal falls right in the middle ground between old- and new-school -- call it middle-school death metal, if you will. In this case, this means that the band borrows an equal number of tricks from both camps, tying it all together with somewhat repetitive song structures that are restrained but still fairly multifaceted. There's an almost equal balance of muddy tremolo, acrobatic fretboard heroics, and modern Behemoth-esque arena stand downs, topped off by some fairly obnoxious gruff vocals and some interesting forays into melodic guitar work.
It sounds pretty good in principle, but throughout listening to Atrophied in Anguish, I couldn't shake the feeling that everything I was hearing had been done better elsewhere. I didn't find many of the hooks the band offers to be very memorable, and there's a distinct lack of character that emerges from Obscenity's efforts to cover too many disparate bases at once. The occasional Gothenburg-influenced melodic guitar interplay and modern tech-styled riffing tropes means the music lacks any of the darkness or atmosphere that one would seek out in death metal's more evil corridors, and the rather accessible and pedestrian song structures means that the band fails to ignite excitement and awe in the same way that today's best tech-death bands are capable of doing. The grating and omnipresent vocals certainly don't help matters; singer Jeff Rudes has a decent tone, but the embarrassing lyrics he constantly spews forth are entirely too intelligible for their own good, and his attempts at rousing choruses come across as silly rather than powerful.
There's several things worth commending about Atrophied in Anguish, the solid production, inspiring guitar solos and leads, and strong drum performance being the primary examples. But ultimately, despite some intriguing ideas in terms of genre-blending and use of melody, Obscenity's newest effort is a pretty bland and forgettable venture. It replicates the tricks of a variety of other bands with decent success, but ultimately lacks the spark and inspiration that would make me want to keep coming back for more.
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