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Obsian Review + Stream

Technicality is something of a sticking point among metal fans.  There are some bands that impress people solely with their chops (Dragonforce, etc.), possessing little in the way of ‘songwriting’ or ‘good material’ but much in terms of wicked fast guitar solos and operatic vocals.  Then there are the bands for whom, to quote Mick Barr of Krallice, playing guitar is like banging two rocks together.  Second wave of black metal, I’m looking at you.

Of course, there are bands that cross this divide, conjuring the gut power of angsty-caveman metal but with the technical wizardry of the practiced.  Russian Circles springs to mind, but a more recent, and in a sense more powerful, addition to this group is Castevet, a Brooklyn-based group that blurs the lines between black metal, math rock, and post-hardcore.  On Obsian, the threesome proves the possibilities inherent in musical virtuosity, but lack the noodling baggage of their peers in high-speed shreddage.


The group succeeds in this by effectively integrating the two styles, frequently subsuming their raw skill within the song’s structure.  So “Cavernous” has protracted sections of droning guitar punctuated by eight-armed drum fills or off-beat bass pings, without one necessarily calling attention to itself.  This isn’t Kayo Dot, where the complexity of each piece sits plainly on the surface; rather it’s more about the ways each player interweaves their parts, and how they play off of each other and the beat.

Perhaps Castevet’s greatest strength lies in its use of syncopation.  The drums on “The Curve” frequently reconfigure each beat with off-time washes of cymbal and snare cracks, jump-starting melodic patterns in the bass that ride the song to a shoegaze conclusion.  The acoustic guitar that leads “As Fathomed By Beggars and Victims” follows such a jarring pattern that the rest of the band can’t help but change behind it, pummeling, thrashing, and almost swinging at times.  The effect is so hypnotic precisely because it doesn’t call attention to itself, relying instead on a keen listener to pick apart the interplay.  Call it virtuosity for the common good.

There is, however, one staggering exception that makes me question everything above: “Seat of Severance,” the closer, may be one of the worst songs I’ve heard this year.  It has a decent CHUN CHUN CHUN riff, but the band, for reasons that completely escape me, decides to shackle it to butt-rock hunger dunger dang vocals in the style of Three Days Grace or Staind.  Think I’m kidding?  Just listen to the damn thing.  It is so out of character with the rest of the record as to merit devoting this entire paragraph to it.  I hear the slurring vocals, calling out “Seat of severawwwwwwwwwwwnce,” in my nightmares.  What the hell, dudes?

But there’s an easy solution: skip the track.  The rest of Obsian is strong enough to stand on its own merits, of which there are many.  Castevet’s obsessive use of syncopation is nearly unprecedented in the black metal field, and the tunes they construct with these chops impress endlessly.  Just never make it past the first five tracks, please.



  1. onei

    November 15, 2013 at 9:02 am

    the last song is awesome. cool clean vocals

  2. Gusto

    October 30, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    i think the last song is great, could do with more of those vocals mixed in with the rest of the album actually.

  3. Daniel Maciel

    October 30, 2013 at 10:39 am

    ahahahaha that last song is hilarious holy hell

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