For anyone who has followed the career thus far of German Doom stalwarts Obelyskkh will know that after years avoiding the studio they have been building a great deal of critical mass with their last two releases; 2011’s Mount Nysa, which drew it’s influence heavily from the Greek Mythology surrounding the title and last years boundary pushing White Lightin’ which managed to up their game and produce one of my favourite Shaman experiences of 2012.
This years release, Hymn To Pan, sees the band continuing to move forward with purpose, drawing influence again from Greek mythology with an ode to the muse of the wild and hunting, the only Greek god to die and as such the album opens with bird calls and the sounding of a horn ushering in the hunt before strains of tranquil strings and laid-back drums usher in a hypnotic start to the epic title track.
From the moment Hymns to Pan begins properly with its ethereal, breathy echoing atmosphere, everything about the band seems to have been cranked up to the max. Ad Low’s vocals are as rich and full throated as ever, multi-layered to provide the sense of a thronging chorus of devotees rather than disguise a lack of power. This is backed by music that is muscular, progressive and a dynamic ebb and flow which builds and releases pent up tension, like a hunting party straining at the leash. This is a rich, intoxicating audio soup that climaxes with a mighty pounding ending flavoured with delicious melodic flourish.
What is clear is that Obelyskkh have increased the psychedelic dimensions of their sound balancing out the heavy riffing of White Lightin’ with a more considered, more intense approach and the creation of a concept that shares kindred spirit with the likes of Sleestak and two of their producer, Brad Boatright’s charges Sleep and High On Fire. The band have clearly spent time honing their ability to balance the ability to create a sense of menace and go for the throat attitude like on at the beginning of ‘The Raven’ and the none more vicious ‘The Man Within’ with a more tempered approach to harmonies laced with intricate picking that add a huge breadth of light and shade to the music on display. That such a feral song as the former could end on a gentle, calming piano segment shows that the Teutonic quartet aren’t afraid to show off their sensitive side and allow tender moments to infuse into the swirling barrage.
‘Heaven’s Architrave’ is in comparison a more considered come down, built around Torsten’s beautiful guitar tone, shuffling drums and resonant bass which breaks out into a choppy riff as the song proves with it’s tempo changes that the band aren’t sitting still for anyone and if you aren’t going to adapt to the ever mutating music you are going to get left behind. Obelyskkh haven’t forgotten their roots though and ‘Horse’ almost comes out of left field with its weird spoken introduction that breaks down into brutal discordant riffing and intense strangled vocals that has more in common with earlier releases, evoking the moment the pleasant facade breaks down into frenzied bacchanal.
It wouldn’t be a Doom album without signing off in epic style and ‘The Will To Nothingness’ does not disappoint. 23 minutes which evokes a kaleidoscope of style as old school Doom, rich with samples that recall recently departed masters Cathedral mixed with deep vocal roars and brutal music, contrasted by mellow instrumentals and classical influences. It is a piece of lofty ambition that can almost be too rich given the balance of the preceding tracks, but an impressive feat none the less.
Hymn To Pan has to take the title of Obelyskkh‘s most expansive work to date and the band seems to grow on every release. It is almost a tried and tested cliché to hear musicians say their new album is heavier, more melodic etc but in this case it is entirely true. Hymn To Pan definitely sees the German crew in the hunt for Doom glory.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden