Originally written by Erik Thomas.
I’ve been a fan of Lithuania folk/pagan act Obtest since 1997’s Tukstanmentis, and while the band has dropped their black metal sound in favor of a more straight forward power metal/thrash with epic folk undertones, they still remain one of the most unheralded and underrated bands in folk metal.
The style shift heard on Iš Kartos Á Kartr (it should be noted I have not heard anything in between Tukstanmentis and Iš Kartos Á Kartr) is from more primeval black metal to bouncier, more epic folk metal, which continues on Gyvybës Medis and has a style that has more in common with Finnish folk/pagan acts like Ensiferum, Wintersun, Turisas, Norther, Falchion (though less synth and ethnic instrumentation based) and such rather than their harsher, more NSBM Eastern European peers.
As with Iš Kartos Á Kartr, the end result is a catchy album of virtual power metal with a folkish/pagan gait and gruff native vocals (with the occasional folk gang chant). No sweeping synths or flutey McViking interludes, just riffs; lots of good, galloping, cantering and mostly memorable riffs that deliver folk/pagan feelings without being too overt. In that aspect, Obtest are sort of like Primordial in the way they imbue a sense of either epic or solemn folk majesty with just the riffs alone.
The first three tracks, “Apeigos”, especially rousing “Vedlys” and high octane “Sviesa” set the high energy, catchy tone tight out of the gate with some truly enjoyable guitar work. The title track has a little more restraint with a steady trot to start, but injects a glorius, epic refrain in the chorus. “Sakalo Vaikai” comes across as a slight, overly rock based missetep after the four previous, grandiose tracks, but “Àþuolas”, the album’s most rousing track fixes things right away. “Geleþinis Vilkas” is the album’s only acoustic flourish within its sterner mood while “Tai Ne Pabaiga” suffers from the same fate as “Sakalo Vaikai”. Somber instrumental number “Ákaitai” closes things out with a fitting mood.
Ultimately, I still miss the blacker furor of the band’s earlier work, but now, Obtest have an undeniable charm, that while is beefed up power metal, retains its pagan majesty.