Describing your own music is something most musicians is uncomfortable with. Its easy to go a little overboard and come off as preposterous when you are satisfied with your latest work. Obsidian Kingdom describe themselves as “hard to classify heavy music with plenty of contrast”, and its actually quite fitting. Hailing from Barcelona, Obsidian Kingdom released a couple of EPs before ‘Mantiis’, their first full-length was self-released in 2012, with a limited print. They have since signed with Season of Mist who has reissued the album and brought the band a wider audience.
As a debut album, ‘Mantiis’ is ambitious, bold, body of work. A concept album written as a whole song, but divided into fourteen sections. Starting off with instrumental piece ‘Not yet five’ that after establishing some dark, emotional atmospheres, flows into the acoustic strumming of ‘Oncoming Dark’. After hearing the first five tracks of Mantiis, you’ve heard crushing riffs both black-metal-ish and more prog-themed rhythmic experimentation, blended effortlessly with acoustic strumming, experimental keyboard work, and even some abstract and jazzier moments.
Even though the mellow, melodic sections are more prominent throughout the album, it only helps emphasize the power of the heavier stuff when it comes crashing down. And you can tell that this was written as a whole piece, everything is well thought out and the playing is unquestionable. And the songs, or pieces if you want to be prog about it, is so well put together that it never seems strange going from double bass pummeling to a trumpet solo the next. They can go from dark atmospheric soundscapes reminiscent of the eerie synth works of Twin Peaks-era Angelo Badelamenti and then go nearly full black metal around the next corner.
It may sound messy and somewhat over the top, but it works so good. The album has a sub-title “an agony in fourteen bites”. And as any good concept album they go through a wide range of emotions throughout the album. From loneliness and despair to anger, agony, madness and beyond. Mantiis is a record that requires listening attention to reveal all of its complex levels, a fusion of genres and atmospheres that can seem a bit odd if one is not familiar with bands jumping from genre to genre. But is so rewarding once you can immerse yourself with the music.
All in all Obsidian Kingdom has made an astonishing debut album, full of diversity and convincing performance by one of the most interesting prog (or at least Prog-related) bands so far this decade.