Released: 2013, Unique Leader Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After initially self-releasing their debut album earlier this year, and apparently selling out the first pressing, Bay Area quintet Oblivion signed on with Unique Leader to give Called To Rise a comparatively wider release. Given their pedigree and unique history, it's easy to see what the buzz is all about.
Ben Orum left All Shall Perish – a band he helped found and was a primary songwriter/guitarist for – to sign on with these guys and switch over to bass. Frontman Nick Vasallo is a PhD and professor of music and guitarist Victor Dods is completing his PhD in math. So they are a smart, savvy lot – enough so to have apparently gotten the trademark to the Oblivion name, despite the thousand other bands who've taken the moniker over the years.
And their music certainly reflects their intellect. Technical death metal with an emphasis on technical, Called To Rise is rife with complexity, instrumental prowess and dizzying arrangements – but like All Shall Perish's work, also manages to be immensely heavy, ominous and entertaining. These guys have a pretty good grasp on balance, and know when enough is enough – so despite their twisty-turny structures, push-me-pull-you pace and obvious dexterity, there is not a lot of masturbatory soloing or technicality for technicality's sake here.
Even the instrumental “Canon in E Minor” offers surprising restraint, sounding more like an exercise in black metal scales with its flitty guitaring than a mere performance piece. Things only really get showy during the bonus tracks, including “Shred I: Multiverse” and “Shred II: Long Deaf Hate” which boast some pretty frenetic violin/cello playing – and even a touch of Slayer's “Angel of Death” on strings at the end of “Shred II,” which is pretty wild.
More typical is the rivet-gun pummel of “Annunaki” or “Reigns In Fire,” where Dods and guitar partner Ted O'Neill run rough-shod, and the black metally flair of, for example, “Cancer of Wraiths” or “Multiverse.” The pair seem to be more fond of tremolo and fast-picked strafing than flashy solos – not that there's anything wrong with that.
Even though there is not a lot of showing off on Called To Rise, the complexity and ambition of many of the tracks comes at the expense of songsmanship, so there are not whole lot of hooks, choruses or other devices to really let you sink your teeth into them. But they are plenty heavy and brutal, regardless, so even if they tend to fly right by, they do their share of damage along the way.