Castevet – Obsian

download (215x192)Listening to Castevet’s Obsian generates a feeling akin to enjoying a fresh cotton swab – feels damn good circling it around in there, despite the reality that you are dredging bodily muck. And the musical muck Castevet disposes of here are the samey-same black metal bands offering nothing in the way of stirring and inventive music. If you are unfamiliar (admittedly unlikely, as 2010’s Mounds of Ash rightfully raised many eyebrows) with Castevet’s brand of black metal massaged with post-hardcore and prog and your ears are in need of a good rooting out, the highly original arrangements present upon Obsian are an excellent introduction to their roto-rooting sonic Q-tip. Don’t think, however, that by my mentioning ‘prog’ that this album contains any wankery, or by ‘post-hardcore’ you are being offered up a slab of boredom-inducing, impotent fist-waving. Prog in this context refers to intricate, but not over-the-top arpeggiated chords and slightly off-kilter (never jarring) time signatures intended to paint ascending and descending shades of gray and black across the Castevet canvas. Counter-point basslines (courtesy of Nicholas McMaster, also of Krallice) announce themselves above the music, splitting your mind’s attention between guitars alternating forth and back from dissonant to melodic and back to dissonant again, all within the span of a single measure. And it is the dissonance and vocal cadence that draw the post-hardcore tag, but unlike bands that adopt a cut-and-paste approach to showcasing influence, Castavet mix this element in with each single black metal riff concoction, thereby denying an easy exclamation of “there it is” when picking out any particular sub-genre element.

Absent in Obsian are any blast beats whatsoever, distancing them further from categorization. Castavet make up for this omission with their innate ability to create bleak atmosphere – another, arguably more important ingredient of any black metal album. And, as with the guitars and harsh vocals, Obsian‘s ambient structures remain evocative and essential throughout. The final minute of ‘The Curve’ juxtaposes beauty and emptiness so perfectly, you’ll find yourself wishing it would never end, while the four minutes of quiet guitars and haunting synths of the album’s title track will draw you deep into a netherworld of hopelessness and catharsis. The dichotomy of beauty/emptiness is perhaps taken too far on final track ‘The Seat of Severance’, wherein Andrew Hock harnesses his clean-singing capabilities which, while in key and serviceable, broke me out of my BM reverie.

Black Metal purists may not give this experimental record a chance, but I’d recommend against bypassing it. Regardless of any techniques employed, this release exemplifies dark music done with taste and emotion. Thus, with Obsian, Castavet deliver on the promise of USBM’s evolution, for those open-minded enough to embrace it. -Jim

Profound Lore Records

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~ by cliftonium on October 2, 2013.

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