Since forming in 2005, Spain’s OBSIDIAN KINGDOM have shattered the boundaries of genres through their consistent experimentation and incorporation of various musical styles. Since their formation, the band have become renown in the underground music world and now, eleven years after their formations, we have A Year With No Summer; the band’s sophomore album. Yet does the band’s love for experimentation result in an over-complicated wall of sound?
It’s difficult to lump A Year With No Summer into one genre of metal. This is an album that contains so much musical diversity that it can leave the rigid music fan feeling confused. Opening the record with the title track, you begin to get a feel for what OBSIDIAN KINGDOM is all about; atmosphere. Through the subtle use of keys from Zer0 Æmeour Íggdrasil and an explosive riff, the track instantly leaves a lasting impression. It’s dark, melancholic and eerily beautiful. Following is April 10th, a track that shatters the typical song structure in modern music. Heavily focusing on atmospheric orchestration and the soft yet firm spoken word of Kristoffer “Garm” Rygg (ULVER), this is not just a filler track on a record full of variety. You feel the weight of anticipation as the track slowly builds across nearly five minutes before exploding into Darkness, a track that explores the polar opposite of emotion and structure.
Darkness presents itself more aligned to the typical song structure of post-rock, with frequent guitar rhythm, consistent drumming and vocal flourishes. Yet it is the execution of the performance that makes this track easily the standout song on the record. The tone of the riffs, the mellow highs of Rider G Omega‘s vocals and the sheer variety of instrumentation makes the track a journey that is worth taking. Isolated guitar notes that scream solitude is the driving force to this track and it makes more interested listening.
Perhaps what is the most interesting aspect to A Year With No Summer is that the record doesn’t flow. Whilst typically for records this is a characteristic that lies in negativity, OBSIDIAN KINGDOM utilise this to their advantage. There is so much variety packed within this record that it’s hard to find a connecting line across the tracks. Yet what this means is that A Year With No Summer is a record that should be digested track by track.
Upon the closure of the album, things begin to drop off somewhat. Whilst the first half of the record presents itself as an interesting foray into the world of post-rock and musical experimentation, this curiosity begins to drag upon the album’s conclusion. Black Swan is one of the record’s shortest songs standing at just over four minutes. Whilst the execution of the vocals is yet again impressive and the isolated guitar tone is again beautiful, the subtle drumbeat and over-reliance of ambient tones leaves the track feeling flat. Thankfully closing track Away/Absent is a monolith of a conclusion. Bleak, droning riffs pound the eardrums until the track roars into life with a barrage of noise. Yet again the pace of the song is constantly changing, allowing OBSIDIAN KINGDOM to really shine with their respective musical abilities. It’s an emotionally draining conclusion to an album that boasts so much value.
A Year With No Summer truly is an interesting record. There is so much going on across the seven tracks, it can be daunting and difficult to truly appreciate what OBSIDIAN KINGDOM have created. However after repeated listens, you pick up something new each time. This is an album that shatters the boundaries of the contemporary heavy metal genres, this is an album that truly is something special. This a record that will stand bold and unique in any music fan’s library.
A Year With No Summer is out now via Season of Mist