Reviewed: [May 2021]
Released [2021 My Kingdom Music]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
There are dynamics aplenty in the epic bluster of Italy’s Obsolete Theory. The band go from zero to 60 and back again as they trudge and sprint through stretches of doom/Goth metal punctuated by fits of death metal and black metal fury on their often thunderous second album.
At the outset, though, Dawnfall sounds like it might be headed in another direction entirely, as the “Night Of Omen” kicks off with a steady, ritual drumbeat and Middle Eastern-tinged guitar strains that is more hypnotic than heavy. Eventually it takes on more of an eerie electronic hue until the hammer finally falls at about the three-minute mark as a leonine growl from frontman Daevil invites the quaking riffs and thudding bottom end that signal the atmospheric scene setting is over.
The song continues to build over its nearly 12-minute length, as swaggering, Cathedral-like grooves enter the fray, eventually yielding to squealing black metal trems and d-beat/double-bass battery at about the midway point that carries on until its symphonic finale. It’s quite a ride to get things started, to be sure.
The nine-plus minute “The Vanished” that follows heads right into its doom/death anthemics, recalling Paradise Lost or Katatonia with its plodding grandiosity and dramatic flourishes until it too kicks into monumental black metal mode. The weighty, somber final third of the song, with Daevil’s mournful, moaning vocals, though evokes Type O Negative.
“Atë” charts a similar course, with even more achingly slow opening that eventually builds to an Amon Amarth-like chug before retreating and giving way to a serene acoustic passage that might have made for a logical end point. But the band amp things back up for a heavier outro that seems somewhat superfluous.
More straight forward are “Acherontia Atropos,” the shortest song here at 6:35, and the closer “The Seal,” the only other track clocking in at less – and just barely – than seven minutes. Both are blackened death metal burners, with “Acherontia” offering some Cradle Of Filthy synth forays that flit in and out as the guitars churn and burn. Amid it all, however, is abundant melody and the song rides out on a long, hooky and surprisingly catchy denouement. “The Seal” maintains its monumental air throughout and makes for a rather grand finale.
Despite the piling on on much of the material, for the most part it works and flows quite naturally, making the song lengths not that much of an issue, the above-noted “Atë” being an exception. “Onirica,” though, is the album’s lone Franken-tune, with disparate elements stitched together to form a behemoth that then staggers around. Opening with a spaghetti western motif that goes on a techno spasm for a few seconds, it then funnels black metal fury through a Meshuggah-like djenty bottom-end with Gothy dramatics replete with clean vocals tagging along. Add some strings at the end, and, well, there you have it.
Obsolete Theory made a wise choice in bringing in Borknagar’s founding guitarist Øystein G. Brun to master the album. He has ample experience handling – and often writing – grand and complex material with his own band, and he ensures the innate “bigness” of the band’s sound comes through while maintaining the clarity needed for its constantly shape-shifting delivery.