Exile on Mainstream
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Even though I’ve been a fan of the style for quite a while now, I have to admit to feeling pretty burned out on the sludge/stoner doom genre these days. While there are definitely bands occupying this space that are doing interesting things, there are far, far more of them out there that are derivative at best, and whose collective presence has been directly responsible for sucking the remaining oxygen out of the room where the style is concerned.
Bavaria-based Obelyskkh have been on my radar ever since I saw a number of positive reviews for their third album, Hymn to Pan, a few years back, but it isn't until now with their fourth full length, The Providence, that I'm getting around to doing so. Unfortunately, the four years of anticipation haven't really been worth it, despite desires to the contrary.
It's not that Obelyskkh haven't created a decent enough album in The Providence, but rather that they've created one of the aforementioned largely derivative ones. With a sound that draws heavy inspiration from Ufomammut and Om with a decent hint of Windhand for good measure, there's nothing particularly unpleasant about the band's approach, per se, but the influences are worn so prominently and are referenced so frequently, that I've found it very difficult to really care about what's on offer because it rarely sounds new or fresh.
To wit, about halfway through the opening track, the band introduces a riff that is eerily similar to the opening riff from “Oroborus” on Ufomammut’s ORO: Opus Alter album. No, it isn't completely identical, but it's reflective of the kind of callbacks, intentional or not, that rob the album of the sense of individual identity that's necessary for it to shine, or at least truly stand apart. This can be felt elsewhere with vocalist Woitek Broslowski frequently aping the style of Om’s Al Cisneros or in the band's frustrating tendency to settle into the dull, power chord-driven riffing employed by countless other acts in this space that bore me just as much here as they do there.
But while there are a number of things that I really didn't like about The Providence, it's not an album without its positive qualities. There are some solid moments here which mostly appear when the band's own personality is allowed to step outside the shadow of their peers. Their light dabbling in psychedelic themes by way of effects or otherwise is a welcome addition, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention how heavy it sounds as well. Yes, there are definitely some positives to be found here, and I'd really like to hear more of them next time around.
Look, it's pretty clear that The Providence didn't do a hell of a lot for me, but it hasn't really soured me on Obelyskkh as a band because I do think there's potential here. It's also worth noting that the issues I have with this album are roughly the same issues that I have with countless other albums in this space, so maybe it isn't unreasonable to conclude that the progression I want to hear in the genre is harder to come by than I believed it to be. If this is true then it may just be that we've pretty much reached peak sludge.