Album Review: Obscurial – Heretic


Album Review: Obscurial - Heretic
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Obscurial. Malaysian extreme metal. Sold. Whilst I’ve covered numerous records from various regions of the earth, Malaysia certainly hasn’t been one of them. But, formed in 2019 right out of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, Obscurial are a death metal act who have been slowly releasing material as early as 2020 with their first Demo, Exaltation. The band unleashed their first full length work in late 2021 with Funeral, Burial And Rites independently but, now three years on and signed on with Memento Mori, Obscurial are looking to release this second album, Heretic, for an April 22nd date. I was certainly curious to see what the band were made of and, therefore was more than ready to dive in to this work of Malaysian extreme metal.

It must be said, right out of the gate, how Obscurial got you with a soundscape that leaves no mistaking what kind of aesthetic they’re seeking to impose. We’ve heard a myriad of death metal productions now where riffs can be visceral, ripping, sonorous etc, but here Obscurial adopt a style that sees their songwriting utilise a cinderblock impact, their guitar work possessing a great weight as riffs are played. However, while the band do exert weight behind their riffs, the record itself doesn’t come across as totally suffocating. It’s as if the band sought to still leave the doors unlocked on their album so while they’re clearly bringing swathes of power your way, it doesn’t feel like they’re actively beating down on your senses too greatly. You’re able to breathe and move about your day all the while Obscurial roar right in your faces, and that’s a tricky balance to get right. Since the band are alleviating the assault on your senses, it enables you to listen more closely to the smaller intricacies of their songwriting, and the depths their riffs and sound are looking to explore.

I particularly took to the sheer unpredictability of their songwriting; not to the extent that their performance is somehow more progressive or technical than anticipated, but rather the lack of limits Obscurial placed upon themselves. Heretic is a conventional death metal record through and through, yet the band quickly establish songwriting that cannot be pinned down easily. A track might open with an eviscerating tempo only to drastically slow for a more trudging riff sequence to follow suit, which is soon succeeded by blast beats coupled with scathing, howling vocals. “Circle Of Heretics” epitomises this beautifully as the band throw you through a maelstrom of hoops and left-field directions that sees their unpredictable approach to songwriting making clear sense.

Album Review: Obscurial - Heretic

The production is also absolutely spot on for the kind of sound Obscurial are championing. This is death metal that’s showcasing a quintessentially modern style of songwriting, however it’s bolstered by a retro style of production that effortlessly brings out the seething malice behind Obscurial’s fuming attitude. Their choice of production has also dirtied their performance. This isn’t the kind of record where you can sit down and calmly decipher each vocal or instrumental element in peace, the band throw you straight into the nexus of their explosive album and give you a single instruction to survive. The deliberate lack of definition behind the guitar work only furthers the chaotic, splintering aesthetic the band’s vibe brings to the record as we’re utterly consumed by their sonic inferno. With that said, this may be a fiery album but it’s still discernible; we always know at every moment what the band are doing and where they’re taking us. The band didn’t want this to be a smooth ride, but it’s still evident where the road is taking us.

Much like the songwriting, the vocals too demonstrate a keen versatility. Instead of just sticking to one style throughout the whole record, the vocals are this ever-evolving force pending in what the songwriting requires in the moment. They could be the growling performance you usually expect, but then they could become this howling, lower performance that brings out a more unkept, animalistic nature from Obscurial’s soundscape. However the vocals come out, there’s always this twisting, snarling edge thrown upon their utterance that helps further the immersion of the band’s performance. It isn’t merely the immediate performance that binds us closer with the vocal delivery, but the hidden extras just below the surface. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered riffs and a vocal performance that mesh so well with each other; it’s impossible to appreciate one without acknowledging the positives of the other.

In conclusion, I found Obscurial’s Heretic to be a sublimely evil record that makes longer tracks especially feel as easy to listen to as it is to breathe. Considering that I can’t say to have listened, let alone heard, much Malaysian extreme metal, this is extremely well written material and it’s only their second full length album. This record feels like a seamless combination of retro production and modern songwriting, bringing forth death metal that’s deliciously savage. Asian extreme metal has been cited as a massively burgeoning scene right now with especial observations thrown upon the Indonesian scene, however I’m all the more curious now for what Malaysia and Obscurial can offer us. Listening to this, any preconceptions of where the band come from are thrown out the window and only the quality of their songwriting is what you’ll take away from this record. Guaranteed to grab your attention and rupture your synapses with its crunching, merciless tone, Obscurial are on to a winner here.

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