I freely admit, before getting into the meat of this review, that I had previously written Obiat off as one of ‘those’ London-based bands. Y’know, the eternal London support bands such as Breed 77, End Of Level Boss and the like who seem to operate on some kind of ‘support timeshare’ slot at shows in our capital city. Why, you’d think that there WERE no other bands in That London!
So, having previously made assumptions about Obiat, I approached reviewing ‘Eye Tree Pi’ with some trepidation, fearing yet more half-baked substandard alterna-metal with stoner leanings, but what I actually heard, however, was something ELSE entirely….
I always remember a sketch on The Benny Hill Show in which he used a blackboard to illustrate the reason that one should never make assumptions – when one ASSUMES, one makes an ASS out of U and ME – and THAT is what I have done. I am, however, man enough to admit it and to issue an apology to Obiat…
I am sorry for assuming that Obiat would be more half-arsed amateurish cack-handed British drivel, I was VERY wrong indeed.
What Obiat ARE is, in reality, some of the most top-flight progressive metal that I have heard in quite some time. Equal parts Tool, Earthtone9, System of A Down at their most expansive and Oceansize at their most aggressive, Obiat are truly a band of SUBSTANCE.
Opener ‘Poison Thy Honey’ draws the listener in with a languid introduction of cleanly reverbed guitars and a low, breathy moan of a vocal before kicking in VICIOUSLY with a scorching, juddering guitar riff, piston-like drumming and a haunting semi-operatic ascending vocal. Obiat lurch from that into a hynotic bass and drum-led shuffle with a slowly building guitar and understated vocal, then crash back into a more aggressive – but no less hypnotic – groove topped by a plaintively droning vocal line. A slightly-delayed and reverb-drenched guitar line develops that has strong overtones of Adam Jones sinewy guitar parts for Tool, but this too submerges back into the aggressively choppy hypno-riff that carries the track.
These aggressively-hypnotic guitar riffs are something that Obiat excel at – guitarist Raf really makes the most of being the sole axe-slinger in the band, thickening his sound up with subtly applied delay when needed, but knowing that bassist Alex will NEVER let the power drop out, no matter what tricky manoeuvres he pulls out of the bag. Vocalist Laz effortlessly keeps up with the musical mathematics happening around him, channelling an immensely malleable and powerful voice that encompasses the lows of Tom Waits and the highs of Chris Cornell across the spread of the album, and often across one SONG. ‘Eye Tree Pi’ is riddled with subtleties and atmospheric moments, and the four musicians MORE than have the chops needed to do them justice. Such as the supremely restrained final track ‘House Of The Forgotten Sins’, that plays out like an extended version of the quiet tension of Tool’s ‘The Patient’, stops dead at an abyss of nothingness, then continues in a way that recalls the intricate, yet low-key, moments of Gastr Del Sol.
From the CRUSHING, loping, Iron Monkey-play-Prog main groove of ‘Delights’, to the whisperingly minimal desert-scape that closes it and bleeds into the Oceansize-gone-sludge haze of ‘Serpents Rites’. The spooked-out, shimmering final section of ‘Serpents Rites’ kaleidoscopic, shimmering space that lights out for the territories inhabited by Across Tundras sits deftly next to the epicly tricksy-yet-bulldozing math-metal of ‘NoMad NoMind’, and the borderline ambient pastoral feel of ‘Passive Attack’ completely naturally.
The lumbering doom that moves through psychedelic metal and crashes into a supremely Mars Volta-esque syncopated jazz-fusion section in ‘AA54089’ sounds like it could be being played by MARTIANS, so odd is the juxtaposition, but it WORKS, by Crom, it WORKS.
Obiat have GOT it – call it the knack, mojo or hoodoo, but they have GOT it, in SPADES.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson