Album Review: Obscene – Agony & Wounds


Album Review: Obscene - Agony & Wounds
Reviewed by Sam Jones

There are various bands who, upon announcing a new record, still take me by surprise with glee, knowing they have new material on the horizon. One such band is Obscene, formed in 2016 originally as Blood Chasm, before changing their name to how it is now a year later. Hailing from Indiana, United States, Obscene released their first EP, Sermon To The Snake, in the same year and would eventually unleash their first album in 2020, titled The Inhabitable Dark. Two years on, the band would return with their second record, titled …From Dead Horizon To Dead Horizon, and now the same amount of time passing once more, Obscene are ready to release their third full length work, Agony & Wounds, on a new deal with Nameless Grave Records, featuring artwork by the sublime Brad Moore. Penned for a July 12th release date, Agony & Wounds is set to be another notch in Obscene’s roster of records. Let’s check it out.

One thing that has struck me regarding Obscene, and over the course of their recent releases too, is their leaning towards a cleaner, polished soundscape instead of the usual muddied affair death metal conventionally hearkens for. Though the band’s songwriting is far from typically clean, and their attack is blessed with great weight behind its punch, Obscene don’t try and load anything unnecessary on top of their already frantic pacing. It doesn’t take long for Agony & Wounds to showcase its blistering tempo nor its savage vocal capabilities, yet by maintaining a more polished approach to their production it actually clears up the view we have by which we can take in these frenetic blast beats, and acknowledge just how seething the vocals are. In turn, Obscene throw out what is easily their most scathing and erupting album yet within a soundscape that’s thrusting jets of steam and vitriol; it’s no so much anger than it is a rabid state; you’re always convinced the band are on the cusp of losing that last frayed end of sanity. What is curious though is the motion the riffs present; were used to hearing a ripping or tearing style of riff but Obscene here opt for a swaying style. When the riffs are at their strongest, the record resembles a ship in storm where against our will we’re pushed from side to side from outside forces. Agony & Wounds therefore adopts a swaying style of attack where the entire band’s performance is collected together in a clenched impact that strikes us head on.

Due to the band’s choice of production and tone surrounding the record, it’s rendered their drums with an exquisitely polished exterior so every strike, regardless whether it’s the Tom-tom, bass drum, cymbal etc, hits us with a crisp impact but, more importantly, paints the sir performance with a particularly painted finesse. Though the drumming is fast, keeping up and keeping the tempo in check across the board, it never feels like it’s on the verge of breaking away from your attention. But this isn’t merely an unchecked blast beat marathon; while the songwriting isn’t slowing down for anyone, the blast beats are extremely clean and clearly were written to be follows along with so no-one listening is at risk of losing pace as they’re performed. Inbetween blast beats however, the drums so well to keep the pace continuously fresh with drum fills peppered around so the record never runs the risk of adopting a mundane, predictable flow.

Album Review: Obscene - Agony & Wounds

I loved the vocals on this record. They make for a nice departure from your usual gruff or bellowing delivery; on record they’re more akin to At The Gates’ own frontman Tomas Lindberg wherein it’s not the timbre on the word spoken that matters but the surrounding snarl your voice can impart upon it. In doing so, Obscene imbue their soundscape with a peculiarly Gothenburg influence whereby the power they possess isn’t just them throwing a brick at our heads one track after another, but it’s in the sprint, in the long run, that they’re seeing things from. The band don’t necessarily need to thrust a string of hammering riffs down for you to receive the vast mass their performance entails. I personally wasn’t able to discern a word spoken throughout the vocal performance but I never cared, since the attitude they were giving off fit seamlessly within what the songwriting represented. Remove any piece of what’s on record, and the structure would fall, and hence why Agony & Wounds feels so satisfying to experience.

Throughout Agony & Wounds, you’ll find tracks don’t last long. Most of the tracks included on record are roughly three minutes long, some are even shorter. Though they included a few longer pieces on their first record, I think it’s interesting that they’re sticking with, and continuing, their ethos towards track length that they started developing back on their 2022 record. Instead of providing track progression or development that isn’t needed, they simply chose not to do so and thus ensured what was written into a song was only the absolute essential material to get audiences on board and enamoured with their performance. If a track need not be more than two minutes long then why exert yourself into writing more than is required? Throughout the album, Obscene demonstrate their talent at streamlining sections of a track that other bands would usually opt at extending, yet Obscene don’t share the same philosophy concerning songwriting as their kin. The band get to the point, give you what you want, then proceed to the next piece. Though tracks are mostly short and sweet, you’re never at risk of wishing to move on before the band say otherwise, and the next track also gets your blood pumping again.

In conclusion, Obscene hit it three for three for quality, entertaining death metal records. Other than their closing track, the band keep things down to earth and choose not to let things run on for too long; it ties in to their approach with songwriting and how track progression need not be elongated if the writing doesn’t deem it worthwhile. The band’s emboldened style of riff playing creates this dense tone that doesn’t weight heavily on your senses because the actual riff tone isn’t going for that aesthetic. On the whole, Agony & Wounds is actually a very easy record to listen to because, though their tempo is fast and their songwriting doesn’t hold back one bit until the end, it doesn’t try to make you uncomfortable at any moment. It’s that ease of accessibility to strikes at me with this record as opposed to their previous releases and it still manages to be a ripping adventure from start to finish. Obscene are onto something here and I’m certainly on board for what they might do in the future, especially if they are going down this snarling, throttling approach of songwriting.

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