Review & Track Premiere: Obsidian Sea, Strangers

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

obsidian sea strangers

[Click play above to stream the title-track of Strangers by Obsidian Sea. Album is out March 22 on Ripple Music.]

Classic doomers Obsidian Sea mark a decade of existence and make their debut on Ripple Music with their third full-length, Strangers. The three-piece were last heard from with 2015’s Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions (discussed here), and with their new album, they present a tidy six songs and 40 minutes of material that ranges from the ultra-Sabbathian double-layered lead work in opener “The Birth of Fear” to the more complex proto-metallic crunch in nine-minute side A finale “A Shore Without a Sea,” to the subtly progressive execution on that song’s side B counterpart, “The Play.” Their intentions pointed squarely at the doom of olde, the focus from the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Anton Avramov, bassist Delyan Karaivanov and drummer Bozhidar Parvanov is more about traditionalism than range, but there is a spaciousness to the proceedings nonetheless, and for as basic as the elements at play might seem in their sound — guitar, bass, drums, riffs, solos, vocals, etc. — they never fail to set an atmosphere throughout Strangers that breathes new life into the aesthetic with which their working and becomes crucial to the stamp they leave on it with this material.

Strangers isn’t overly showy in terms of trying to convey some threat, and it’s not outwardly morose as plenty of doom can be, and neither is it totally defeated, but even in the brash riff of “The Birth of Fear,” there’s a sense of struggle that comes through, and as that first and crucial hook is set as an opening statement of Obsidian Sea‘s intention for what will follow, they hold to that mindset. It’s not theatrical, and it’s not melodramatic, but as “Every Heart Hides a Killer” taps Pagan Altar via earliest Witchcraft, there’s an unsettling vibe that comes across, and the band seem to revel in it in Avramov‘s next layered solo and the lumber that ensues from there, but it’s telling that they end that second cut in a subdued fashion, as it speaks to the underlying patience in their songwriting.

The kind of doom they’re playing shouldn’t be in a hurry, and Obsidian Sea aren’t. They don’t lurch exactly, but neither do they sound rushed. “The Birth of Fear” and “Every Heart Hides a Killer” both move at a smooth pace, the opener just a bit faster, and seem more concerned with establishing the course of the record than catching the listener off guard with any sudden or stark changes. To wit, the build into a nodding chug and solo part in “Every Heart Hides a Killer” is well telegraphed ahead of time, and the chorus earlier in “The Birth of Fear” is clearly placed at the outset to grab attention. At the same time, there’s something very carefully done about Strangers that comes through beneath the surface of the album. It is very purposefully divided into two sides, each of which caps with a nine-minute track — “A Shore Without a Sea” and “The Play,” respectively — and to listen to Avramov and Karaivanov‘s tones and even the raw gut of Parvanov‘s drumming, it’s clear that Obsidian Sea aren’t conjuring their sound by happenstance.

Obsidian Sea

As one might expect for a third LP, the band have an idea of their sound and how to realize it in the studio. No doubt some of it came together on the fly as is inevitable in a recording process, but the composition and delivery of these songs are thoughtful and able to engage with nuance despite being outwardly traditional. It’s in this manner that Obsidian Sea carve out their niche within the genre and work to make their sound their own in a way they haven’t before. This, obviously, is the ideal for a band in their position, and maturity suits them all the more since they have the substance of craft to support their own stylistic manifestation. As “A Shore Without a Sea” gracefully unfolds along its plotted trajectory, the band’s control over that direction is complete, and they are able sound-wise to find that place in between in such a way as to shape genre to suit the needs of their material. Again, the ideal.

“Strangers” and “The Demolished Man” function not unlike “The Birth of Fear” and “Every Heart Hides a Killer” on side A, but the title-track fleshes out the vocals with a second layer, and “The Demolished Man” most gruelingly communicates the downtrodden spirit of the album through a slower pace and a sense of arriving at its referenced vanquishing, departing from vocals just past the halfway mark and continuing along an instrumental path for the remainder of its six minutes. Both sides of the record work shortest to longest, so there’s no shortage of symmetry to be read throughout, but as it’s slower and more outwardly depressive, “The Demolished Man” makes a fitting penultimate cut, since it seems to push downward as far as Obsidian Sea are willing to go while still allowing for “The Play” to summarize the entire proceedings. Is that organ I hear at the start?

Either way, the closer fleshes out Strangers‘ sound effectively, bringing together tempo shifts like that around the 4:30 mark and stretches of softer melancholy and more tempestuous riffing all to serve the purpose of defining Strangers as a whole. In so doing, it denotes a release of marked artisanship, making use of the tenets of classic doom without sacrificing its own persona at their altar, and creating songs that find a place for themselves amid the expressive history of the genre that is as much personal as it is reaching out for connection. Their variability in songwriting is drawn together via a thread of tone and melody woven across the material, and they use this as the backdrop for bringing a doom to bear that is at once homage to what’s come before and a sign of what the future might bring. It can be a difficult outing to pin down at first, but the manner in which its spirit plays out across its run is well worth the effort of repeat listens.

Obsidian Sea on Thee Facebooks

Obsidian Sea on Bandcamp

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Obsidian Sea to Release Strangers March 22; Streaming “The Birth of Fear”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Obsidian Sea

I was fortunate enough not so terribly long ago to have been put onto Obsidian Sea‘s second album, Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions (discussed here), so the news that the band has been picked up by Ripple Music for the follow-up due out next month, titled Strangers, is nothing but welcome. The Bulgarian trio practice a style of doom that’s stylistically intricate but still steeped in tradition, and as you can hear in “The Birth of Fear” streaming below, you could just as easily tag them a classic-style band as a garage doom outfit as a practitioners of the dark heavy psychedelic arts. Awesome.

My hope is to have more to come on this one — i.e. a track premiere or some such — before it’s released on March 22, so stay tuned for that (I hope), and here’s some background from the PR wire in the meantime:

obsidian sea strangers

Introducing OBSIDIAN SEA: Bulgarian Heavy Psych Trio to release new album STRANGERS with RIPPLE MUSIC | Share new song ‘THE BIRTH OF FEAR’

Formed in Sofia, Bulgaria in 2009 by guitarist/singer Anton Avramov and close friend/drummer, Bozhidar Parvanov, Obsidian Sea is a doom metal band whose style shifts atmospherically through heavy rock ‘n’ roll, dark variants of 70s doom metal, and psychedelic and progressive rock.

Following the release of a four-song demo in 2010, their first full-length debut, Between Two Deserts was officially released in 2012. Out of necessity, Obsidian Sea quickly became a trio with the addition of Ivaylo Dobrev on bass and the band soon played their first few live shows alongside the likes of Ufomammut, 1000mods, Abysmal Grief, Dopelord and a whole host of local acts such as Upyr, Sativa, Muddy, Trysth and The Lost Underdogs; each band making a vital contribution to the development of a small but promising doom/stoner/sludge scene in Bulgaria. As well as playing live in their homeland, Obsidian Sea has also played in Greece, Serbia and Austria, while taking part in the Doom Over Vienna Fest in 2017.

The second Obsidian Sea album, Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions was recorded in the Autumn of 2014 and released by the band themselves as a limited-edition CD and cassette on the Bulgarian label, Serpent Eve Records. 2016 brought a line-up change – Ivaylo Dobrev was replaced on bass by Delyan Karaivanov – and in March 2016, Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions was repressed on vinyl and CD by Nuclear War Now! Productions (USA).

Strangers is released on 22nd March 2019 through Ripple Music. Stream and share new song ‘The Birth of Fear’ HERE.

Pre-order the album HERE

OBSIDIAN SEA is:
Anton Avramov – Guitars, Vocals
Delyan Karaivanov – Bass, Backing Vocals
Bozhidar Parvanov – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/ObsidianSeaDoom/
https://obsidian-sea.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Friday Full-Length: Obsidian Sea, Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Obsidian Sea, Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions (2015)

Believe it or not, Obsidian Sea are the first Bulgarian band I’ve ever covered on this site. And hey, I’m only about three years late on the record, so, you know, bonus.

Last month, I had the thoroughly appreciated pleasure of being a guest on the Evropa Rawks radio program with hosts Maksim Stoimenov and Martin Petrov. If you’re interested in hearing me embarrass myself by ranting clumsily through such pseudo-insights as “social media changed things,” you can listen right here, but the point is I asked the duo for recommendations from their home country’s underground, and among the literal list of names and links I was sent (also thoroughly appreciated), were Sofia-based doom traditionalists Obsidian Sea.

Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions, which is the second full-length from Obsidian Sea behind 2012’s Between Two Deserts, actually had a US release as a 12″ in 2015 through Nuclear War Now!, but the CD version was independently issued by the band. At a vinyl-ready 40:26, it’s 15 minutes shorter than its predecessor, and its six component tracks — which break neatly into three per side — present a united front in that none of them is under six minutes long. That gives a somewhat monolithic first impression, which, frankly suits the three-piece’s grim aesthetic, but while the songs themselves intentionally follow the well-established tenets of classic, traditionalist doom, there’s a reasonable amount of variety contained within, whether that arrives in the form of the headbang fodder in opener “The Trial of Herostratus” or the more swinging groove of the later-arriving “The Fatalist.”

Echoing vocals and tonal resonance from guitarist Anton Avramov on “The Trial of Herostratus” help to bring an immediate sense of space to Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions, and in the solo section of the second half, as bassist Ivaylo Dobrev holds down the thickened rhythm, drummer Bozhidar Parvanov manages to sneak in a measure or two on his cowbell, but from the very beginning there is very little mistaking Obsidian Sea‘s overarching purpose. This is doom metal. Doom. Metal. And righteously schooled doom metal at that. At times less directly indebted to Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Saint Vitus or even the likes of Reverend Bizarre than one might expect — though, of course, by simply being doom a line can be drawn to any of them if one draws it in a roundabout-enough fashion — cuts like “Confession” instead recall the glory days of Hellhound Records and its fascinations with groups like Iron Man, Wretched, Unorthodox and Revelation. Again, Obsidian Sea don’t necessarily stay unipolar in their approach, and closer “Somnambulism” certainly embraces its inner Iommi with its creeping verse line and grandiose bridge and chorus riffing, but whether it’s the severity of crash in the central rhythm of “Child in the Tower” or the organ-laced theatricality of “Mulkurul,” which follows, there’s a thread of ’90s-style doom woven into the songcraft that ultimately serves to tie the album together in its overall flow.

And if one gets the sense throughout that Obsidian Sea are preaching to the converted, well yeah, that’s the whole idea. Listening to Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions as an American, there’s a tendency to think of it as coming from some far-off place, unimaginable as a document with commonalities of aesthetic. Such regionalist notions were never accurate to the workings of the world and are perhaps less so now than they ever were. Doom is universal. You would be hard-pressed to find a corner of the earth in which a riff does not somewhere reside, and why Bulgaria should be any different than Indianapolis, I have no idea. The truth of the matter is that while the style Obsidian Sea play and the fact that Avramov sings in English are no doubt influenced by American cultural imperialism, as a genre, doom knows no boundaries or borders and there’s no single nation, state or group who could claim ownership of it — Black Sabbath included — and not make themselves an immediate laughing stock in so doing.

Obsidian Sea will reach a decade of activity next year. Next month, they share the stage with Dopelord in their hometown — info is at their Thee Facebooks — but I haven’t seen word of a follow-up in progress to Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions one way or another. Doesn’t mean it’s not happening or that it won’t happen, just that they haven’t made it public. Sometimes a band doesn’t necessarily want to advertise every move they make. Nonetheless, I’ll be keeping an eye and ear out, and once again, I thank Maksim Stoimenov and Martin Petrov for helping educate me on the Bulgarian underground. If you need me, I’ve got more bands I’ll be digging into from that list.

In the meantime, and as always, I hope you enjoy.

Been up since 4AM. Happened twice this week that I went to bed around 9PM, woke up between 11PM and 12AM and never got back to sleep. Out of my mind. Nutritionist told me on Monday that if I kept doing things the way I’ve been doing them I would die. For most of the last several days as I’ve basically forced myself to eat things like fruit and bread for the first time in more than two years, I have considered death a preferred alternative. Delicious though fruit and bread are.

I’ve pretty much lost it. I could go on. Did. Deleted the paragraph. So miserable. So miserable. So miserable.

Here’s what’s in the notes for next week instead:

Mon.: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard track premiere.
Tue.: Garden of Worm/The Wandering Midget split stream and review.
Wed.: King Witch track premiere; Black Space Riders vinyl giveaway.
Thu.: Most Anticipated of 2018 list (maybe).
Fri.: Nebula album stream/interview.

That Nebula stream is the first of three I’ll be doing. I’ve got interview questions in to Ruben Romano to talk about the reissues they’re putting out on Heavy Psych Sounds and I’ll be hosting the new versions of the records with the bonus material and whatnot. Stoked on it. The others will follow in the next few weeks, so keep an eye out.

Great and safe weekend. Forum and radio stream. Apples and bananas and blueberries and oranges and grapefruit and peanut butter and toast and soy milk and hopefully enough xanax to kill an elephant.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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