Some days, you just wake up craving exotic death metal. Luckily, In Severe Stranglehold, the latest EP from Ukranian 5-piece Obrij is available to scratch a very particular itch. Over the last six years, these eastern gargoyles have cranked out a handful of splits and EPs. Crafted in a remote part of the world in their native language with thorny black ‘n white skull hieroglyphic artwork, this band offers limitless intrigue for explorers of the metal underground’s sub-basement.
Personally, I found one of the descriptions (“groove metal”) a bit curious. For the full duration of this abrasive EP, riffs bleed out at a torturous mid-pace, drums ticking and pounding in an endless uphill procession capped by vocalist Mykola’s acidic roars of cruel repression and subjugation to tyranny. There’s a grim beauty to the style of guitarists Yaska and Vasyl, particularly in the slower segments, the gothy brush-strokes of melody in “Ad Civitas Solis” and the fulgid harmonies of “The Kingdom of Closed Gates” seemingly drink from the ruined distillery of doom-death, albeit at tempos much faster than continental drift. There’s a tangible sense of joylessness, the sort of vibe that’s nigh impossible to fake. The unhinged mood of forlorn, the blank-eyed despondency, is about as groovy as a sock hop in a sarcophagus.
Unfortunately, there’s a predictability to the songs. I would love to hear some uber-tight drum and guitar interplay swirled into the mix. The tempos need flashes of speed- some of them sound like the band is stuck in second gear. If the drummer offered some primal bursts of grindy snare freakishness or a few measures of proggy time-shifts, it could spice up these frowsy rhythms considerably. The guitarists obviously have talent, but the linear path of these songs tends to drag. Some hard-panned bursts of atonal harmony, pretzel twisting along with the aforementioned drum-shifts, could break them out of tunnel-vision without compromising the delicious bleakness of the whole thing.
Lots of promise, excited to see what these guys conjure up before we all experience the joyless demise Obrij is predicting.