Release DetailsLABEL Exile On Mainstream Records
RELEASED ON 9/17/2013
Musically, we're talking sharpened psychedelic sludge, like shards of glass immersed in molasses, or perhaps belladonna honey desperately lapped from a broken jar on a filthy floor.
Hymn To Pan
There are all sorts of deities to whom we in the Metal realms pay homage. Many are underworldy (Satan, Baphomet, Hades, etc.) but others regale in the mortal plane. Some, like Dionysus, revel in the excesses of drink, while others, like Heracles, balance between the worlds of gods and men. Then there are those such as Pan, who actually incorporate both of those attributes. Pan is of direct musical lineage; one who heretically challenged the very abilities of Apollo himself, a questionable move that rarely works out (just look at Arachne). He is an earthbound forest-dweller, which I'm sure the swathes of Pagan Metal bands can relate to. And he is responsible for some of the terminology/imagery used in music circles, from panic to pipers to anthropomorphized goats. Thus, it makes sense for at least one band to directly pay him homage, and on their third release, the monolithic Obeylskkh bravely attempts the daunting task at hand… or hoof.
Musically, we're talking sharpened psychedelic sludge, like shards of glass immersed in molasses, or perhaps belladonna honey desperately lapped from a broken jar on a filthy floor. But some of the sound samples feel ill-placed, and you don’t get edgy just by incorporating snippets of dialogue from controversial figures, they have to mean something. Speaking of ‘edge’, I certainly know theirs isn’t straight, if my non-donkey ears are correctly catching the sound of their water pipes — which aren’t exactly from reeds, if you get my meaning.
The famous "Warriors, come out to play-ay!" at the start of "Horse" (and the “Can you dig it?” line in the middle of the track) doesn't seem to make much sense, nor do the heavily quoted Charles Manson lines from extended 24-minute concluder "Revelation: The Will to Nothingness". Maybe 'curious' at best, but they land on the confusing—rather than intriguing—part of the spectrum. ‘“The Man Within” invokes Apocalypse Now and William S. Burroughs and Jim Morrison, but to what end? There are lots of cool ideas here, but how do they jell?
Honestly, as god of theatrical criticism, I don’t think Pan would be stoked to find himself as a practical deuteragonist at best, when the entire album is named after—and ostensibly dedicated to—the man-goat himself. “Heavens Architrave” feels as though it recaptures some of the original direction, richly four-string-driven and featuring the most clean vocals on the album, perhaps even the most on any Obelyskkh track thus far in the Bavarian’s short five-year career. But despite the album’s greatest successes, I was by and large expecting something far more ambitious.
The title track is heralded by the song of birds and a distant horn (perhaps a war trumpet?), followed by methodical drum-and-guitar riff, with the almost-mantric ”You are the light, Pan / Out of the night, Pan” repeated for maximum impact. The songs variety of movements and textures interlock well, with Dirty Dave’s bass beefing up the low end, while the guitars of Stuart “The WhizKid” West and Crazy Woitek exchange both heavy slabs and light plucking, all kept in line by the best-named drummer: Steve “The Krusher” Paradise.
But take followup “The Ravens” for example. It packs a punch with mighty metallic chords and powerful shouts versus nodding chants, but it took a while to extrapolate meaning from the possibility of the carrion-consuming birds linking the mortal world and the afterlife, since “The Man Within” feels preoccupied with the notion of death. Does it link? I’m not sure. Further, as I approach double-digit spins on this beast, I still struggle with “Revelation: The Will to Nothingness”. Sure, there is beauty in meandering and “not all who wander are lost” and blahblahblah… but I want to believe that there is some degree of purpose behind this epic execution, and I have no problem checking on my laundry while this song takes its time coming around full circle.
To be clear: I do enjoy Obelyskkh. I was stoked about White Lightnin’ when it dropped this time last year, I think the band has great potential, and I know they are able to create with a broader palette than they let on. I mean, if you wanna get philosophical and make some bold, grand statement about how Charles Manson is analogous to Pan, or draw paralleling parables to modern neopaganism, then so be it. Hell, the band could have simply named the album something different, while still including “Hymn to Pan” as a song, which would not have created the expectation of a larger conceptual framework. Or maybe I’m just grumpily overthinking things; I haven’t smoked much weed lately.