Obsidian Kingdom: Mantiis Mini-Review

I’ll do a short review for my lone reader. Plus the blogosphere has randomly decided that it is avant-garde metal week, so I’ll contribute a band that probably won’t get mentioned otherwise. The notion of a theme and variations dates back to at least the 16th century. The idea is to present a short melody or theme, and then flesh out the rest of the piece as modifications on this theme.

The modifications could be embellishments, time signature alterations, or probably most importantly the same theme in a new genre. I don’t want to say Obsidian Kingdom’s Mantiis is a theme and variations, because I don’t think it is. But it is a modern deconstruction of the idea.

The album is essentially one long song, but at the track breaks you tend to get radical shifts in genre. The band acknowledges this approach in subtitling the album An Agony in Fourteen Bites. Strangely, I could probably use all the same terms I used when reviewing Follow the White Rabbit, but this band sounds absolutely nothing like them.

Let’s go through and put some (mostly meaningless) labels on the tracks. We start with a purely atmospheric track (see what I mean about FTWR), then move on to some acoustic post-rock. I use this term because this track could have been written and executed by Interpol (notice the eerily similar vocal sound even). Next we finally get some metal with a prog flare from the keyboard texture which transitions to our first really heavy track. I love this one because of the crazy electronica that comes in at the end.

As if cycling we return to an atmospheric feel with a piano ballad. This moves to something close to alt-rock with great harmonizing in the clean vocals. Next comes my favorite track: post-black metal jazz fusion?!?! Listen below. It is mind-bogglingly good. Then the cycle continues. I won’t bore you with continuing to list.

All I can say is that maybe some of the styles and tracks don’t interest you, but when put together this is one heck of a fantastic album. I’m not sure when I last heard a full album so carefully and thoroughly constructed to work as a single piece of work (Dream Theater: Metropolis maybe?). The level of musicianship needed to produce and execute an album like this is extremely high. I can’t get enough of it.

Again, I’ll add the caveat that it is a crime that I didn’t spend more time giving a better review for how great this is. Maybe I’m getting soft, or maybe I should only review these under-the-radar guys, but I will give out another 10/10. Here’s a sample (how is this song even possible?), but you must listen to the whole ablum for any understanding of what this band “sounds like”:

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