We’re all born from a Blood Chasm, but these Indianapolis miscreants just so happened to enter the world under that moniker. Much like when you shed the shredded womb, Obscene truly began to form their identity and start their true maturing process once they switched names.
The band formed in 2016, spending the ensuing years honing their songs onstage. While Hoosiers have been the primary benefactors of their grisly musings, a number of small tours and their 2017 demo Sermon to the Snake permitted a growing faction to know their name. Their diligent work ethic and dedication to their craft has led them to a strong debut in The Inhabitable Dark that Blood Harvest Records was all too happy to support through the distribution of physical copies.
“Without Honor and Humanity” immediately establishes what’s in store: The early tremolo riff is reminiscent of Gateways of Annihilation-era Morbid Angel, and the chugging section in the middle points to Asphyx, while the late squealing dive-bomb and the Tom G. Warrior “ough” that close the song should make every death-head grin. Promptly following, “All Innocence Burns Here” sports a mid-paced run that will get your head bobbing like Bolt Thrower is in your ear, yet manages to drop into a brief pummeling dirge that will appeal to Incantation fans.
Even the format of the album shows a subtle nod to their heroes in Asphyx and their iconic album The Rack. The run time is similar, and just as their Dutch forebears did, Obscene saved their longest, most dynamic track for last. While not reaching the lengths of “The Rack”, the title track here follows a similar pattern across its six-and-a-half minutes. The intro is a slow heavy build before unleashing a vicious riff run closed out with dramatic notes from the haunting tinkling of ivory keys. (The closing of “The Rack” was more backed by some dramatic synths rather than by standalone keys, but you get the idea.)
Obscene has also shown some development from their demo by letting Mike Morgan spice in lead-work that was previously absent. Whether it’s the quick noisy shred that pops its head into “This Is He Who Kills” or the touch of cock-rock swagger exhibited on “Isolated Dumping Grounds,” here’s to hoping Morgan is given even more reign to dance his fingers across the fretboard in the future.
Brandon Howe’s drumming is also worth noting. While death metal drums are most often equated with the beloved blast beat, Howe utilizes them rather sparingly. His weapon of choice tends to be D-beats or a steady mid-paced kick drum pattern. Drummers are often given the nod for exceptional speed or technicality, but Howe does a great job of knowing when to add extra notes around the guitar or buckle down to a simpler pattern that strengthens the backbone of the riff rather than overpowers it. In metal the riff is god, and Howe is making sure we hear its sermon properly.
There has to be an elephant in the room though, right? Much like Succumb in 2017, the most divisive feature of Obscene is likely to be Kyle Shaw’s vocals. Imagine Martin Van Drunen with a whirlwind of knife-wielding banshees trying to slice their way out of his throat, and you’re getting in the ballpark. Shaw even implements the tortured “wahooo” sound that Van Drunen perfected. For some, this will be a nice deviation from the bowel-busting bellows most commonly used, and for others, it will be overly harsh and grating. (Those others are chumps, though, because this is a beautifully pained approach.)
The wave of OSDM bands over the last several years has turned into a tsunami, leaving many artists faceless, spinning, and drowning in its mass. A select few like Tomb Mold, Necrot, and Vastum have exhibited an ability to surf across the top of this giant whitecap as leaders in the revival. While Obscene may not be pro surfers just yet, The Inhabitable Dark is a well-crafted boogie board that has them starting to climb that wave rather quickly.