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

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

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4 Responses to “Friday Full-Length: Obsidian Sea, Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions

  1. Mike H says:

    You need to find yourself some good professional help for your head. Someone who specializes in treating, successfully, eating disorder and get it together. Death is preferred? Fuck that man! You have a son. One who depends on you and will for a good long time…even once he is an adult. This is no longer about you. So you need to do whatever you can to fix you, so you can be the father your son needs and deserves. YOU deserve that. THAT will make YOU happy trust me.

    I don’t know how else to say it without being disrespectful. You have to get your shit together brother. It needs to be a priority and you need to find the best help there is. You deserve that. You owe it to yourself, you son, your wife and your family. You have to make you a priority for a bit…just long enough to get to where you can successfully make The Pecan a priority. Little Joe and Wendy need you. There are plenty more of us who genuinely care about you.

    Now is the time. Don’t put it off another minute. And if you need to put the site on hold for a bit to do so, I am certain all of you loyal readers…fans…friends…would support you 110%. Link to a few other sites while on sabbatical. Something. I would rather have no Obelisk than no JJ and I and certain everyone else feels the same way.

    Get to it. Don’t make me have to drive down there!

    Love you man. For real.

    Mike H
    Father of a 6 year old son
    Recovering alcoholic, 5 years, 5 months, 15 days sober

  2. Sabbathjeff says:

    JJ- We met at a few gigs years ago. Beers, smiles were exchanged. I’ve read your blog for years. I want at this point to echo the other comment…im 2 years and 6 months and 2 days clean and sober. I do what works for me. On my 30 month anniversary, 2 days ago, i visited the gravesite of my 1st rabbit who passed on 5 years ago to the day of my 30 month anniversary. She is buried beside her love who passed on my 1 year anniversary. Snow lay on their site with fresh rabbit tracks through them. Last night i saw heavy temple and backwoods payback open for royal thunder at kung fu necktie. At 10 pm, after heavy temples set i walked to my car to put chassit lp in it. A stranger came my direction, a man not at the show id never seen. My hair poofy from headbanging, this stranger said to me while we passed one another: you look so happy, thats awesome man. Im typing friday afternoon at work in the dog grooming shop where i do everything except actual grooming. A friend called, that i know from secular meetings. He told me someone passed last night at 10 pm with his family. Late 80s, 4 cancers, 30 years of sobriety marking the twilight of his life. My recovery is solely my responsibility, but honoring my bunnies, the man who helped found a meeting i attend and was someone id consider a grandfather figure, there are myriad secondary other lives and tertiary reasons like good tunes that inform underpin and make my time on earthnliving this short precious life make sense. 1 out of every 1000 calls for help are immediate and deadly serious. I consider you a friend and want you to continue being a part of this world. Please. Care for yourself so that you can be there for your wife and child. They need you. The riffs wont stop and neither will i but i will be here like everyone else, waiting patiently. Its okay to stop distracting from the inner stuff with blogging and music. Its ok to work on you. You deserve this because you a living entity. Its time to do jj now. I cant do anything for you but offer these words. This is fully up to you and your choice. Its your life jj. You deseve to live it without suffering. Pain is a part of the human experience. Hanging onto suffering insofar as my hindsight allows me to see it is in fact a choice. Please jj. Relax and look inside yourself now. Its a new year. Theres a new life in your life. You can do this.

  3. Ryno says:

    Wow. I don’t know what to say. I’ve seen pictures of you ,JJ, over the past year or two. Didn’t know what kind of diet you were on or what was going on, but I could tell from the pics that you had lost a lot of weight.

    No one is going to give two shits about what albums you’re covering next week or what’s going to be streaming or who you’re going to be interviewing. None of that matters until you get the help that you apparently need. As Mike H very eloquently put it, you have a son. And a wife. And people that care about you.

    Take his advice. Do it now. Take a timeout from your digital life and focus on your real life. The last thing you need is enough Xanax to kill an elephant.

    Get better, dude. This Obelisk thing can wait.

  4. Aron says:

    We’ve been sort-of-internet-aquaintances since 2002 I believe. 16 goddamn years.

    I’ve seen way too many people die in those years – for many reasons, a lot of them pretty stupid and preventable.

    I can’t say anything more eloquently than Mike or the other folks above but I will say this. There’s a hell of a lot of us out here in the wilds of the internet that care about you, want you to be healthy and NEED you to stick around to write about music and foster the ever-growing community that started out so small so long ago.

    I can’t claim to know what you’re going through but know that I care.

    You’re taking steps in the right direction – keep putting one metaphorical foot in front of the other and get better.

    -Aron (RnRJanitor dude from long-ago internet land)

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