Sunday 10 July 2022

OBIAT ~ INDIAN OCEAN ..... review


London based quartet Obiat should be no strangers to those who prefer their grooves to have a leaning towards the progressive end of the underground rock spectrum or those partial to to some sludge-like heaviness. The band first came onto Desert Psychlist's radar via their debut "Accidently Making Enemies"(2002) a stunning mix of crunching sludginess and stoner metal fuzziness shot through with elements of heavy psych and prog which was followed up three years later by "Emotionally Driven Disturbance" (2005) an album that saw the heavy psych and prog textures of the previous album taking a more prominent role in Obiat's overall sound. Four years later (2009) the band released "Eye Tree Pi" which followed much the same path as its predecessor, an album that continued the bands mission of balancing out of their love of a meaty riff with their equal love of complexity and intricacy. Its been a long time since Obiat last released an album but despite all the line-up changes (Raf Reutt is the only member to have played on all the bands releases)) and the long periods between albums the bands music has continued to develop and evolve, the bands latest release, "Indian Ocean", with the current line up of  Alex Nervo (bass/guitar/keys and FX); Neil Dawson (drums/percussion); Sean Cooper (vocals) and the ever present Raf Reutt (guitars/keys and FX), is testament to that ongoing evolution, ok it may have taken thirteen years to arrive but believe us when we say the wait has been worth it.

Obiat are not averse to inviting other musicians to contribute to their albums and there are a whole slew of guests making an appearance throughout "Indian Ocean" the first of these guests being Arek Kasprzak who adds traditional South American and Japanese bamboo flute textures to the languid and quite beautiful middle section of opening track "Ulysses". "Ulysses" is a song that begins life with swirling keys reminiscent of something you might hear in a Hammer House of Horrors movie but then explodes into a spluttering prog(ish) metal groove tempered by a lilting yet powerful vocal melody. It is this juxtaposition of melody and might that sets Obiat apart from many of their contemporaries, where a similar sounding bands might throw some harshness into their vocals Obiat go the other way and layer their crunching metallic grooves with mellow soaring harmonies and clean strong lead adding a contrast that you might think won't work but ultimately does. "Eyes and Soul" follows and finds the band jamming a layered prog-like groove around a heavily filtered vocal that gives the song an almost submerged vibe almost as if the singer is trying to communicate his thoughts from beneath some sort of liquid shroud, that is until just past the halfway mark when the song takes on a heavier dynamic with the guitar and bass hitting into a chugging stuttering metallic refrain driven hard by some seriously impressive drumming. The track also features Marta Rakowska (trombone) and Tomasz Bachorz (saxophone) but their contributions are more a case of adding texture and colour than anything else and tend to get a little lost here. "Acid Wake" is up next and finds Obiat adding a a touch of dank doom-ic pacing to their repertoire something that the band offset with a nicely ambient/post-rock sections which once again features flautist Arek Kasprzak. For "Nothing Above" the band go all in on the post rock utilizing not only the skills of  Rakowska and Bachorz, whose contributions here are much more prominent, but also the voice of  Swedish alternative artist Sofia DeVille whose sweet ethereal vocals give the song a haunting, almost folk like, quality. "Sea Burial" finds us back in sludge metal/prog territory with the band once again offsetting their crunching distorted riffs with lilting melodies that soar in opposition to the heaviness surrounding them, a heaviness added to by the occasional bursts of free jazz blowing from Rakowska and Bachorz. "Ad Mellora" is a wonderfully diverse trip from post-rock serenity into sludge drenched chaos while the epic "Beware The North Star" builds from humble and languid to atmospheric and torch-like touching base along its way with alt-rock and doom before slowly fading away into silence. All good things have to eventually come to end and "Indian Ocean" closes its account with the quite beautiful  "Lightness of Existence" a track that is more a tone poem than an actual song, its majestic backdrop of Oriental flavoured percussion, keyboard effects and flute is accompanied by spoken narrative from Japanese musician Fumio Takaki, his whispered words (spoken/intoned in his native language) combined with the serenity of the music that surrounds those words may not quite be what you were expecting to hear close an album that started so explosively but that's Obiat for you, a band you can guarantee will always deliver the unexpected.

Thirteen years between releases is a long time to wait for a new album but when you are presented with and album of the depth, intensity and sheer musical brilliance of Obiat's "Indian Ocean" well then the  time waited becomes an irrelevance and you just have to thank the higher beings of your choice that a band like Obiat exists and is still out there making music of this quality and calibre. 
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

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