Hell Obelisco – Swamp Wizard Rises

The best part about listening to metal is just how varied it can be. There are a number of different styles and genres of metal performed by so many different people. It can be extremely dense sometimes, employing a number of influences and musicians. It can be very heady with progressive songwriting or spacey synths. But sometimes, all you want is just a straightforward, no-nonsense sound that can just scream at you. If you are in the mood for the latter, look no further than Italy’s Hell Obelisco.

Hell Obelisco is a supergroup featuring members of a number of different Italian metal bands including Addiction, Monumentum, Schizo, Tying Tiffany, Evilgroove, and The Dallaz. This is a list of any and all kinds of metal. While the range of influences and genres presented here may lead you to think this band has to be super complex, nothing could be further from the truth. Hell Obelisco has created a very straightforward stoner sludge sound that’s very akin to early Mastodon.

The pure raw aggression on this record starts immediately with “Voodoo Alligator Blood.” That slightly fuzzed chorus guitar riff explodes with a crash of cymbals and drum skins accompanied with layered brutal riffs and bass. Once the vocals cut in, you know you’re listening to a sludge band. It’s a distorted barking scream that adds to the roundhouse of Hell Obelisco’s sound that brings out the hardcore influences the band clearly has.

The band is also super riff heavy. Even in the verse sections, there are no quiet sections of subdued chords. There are no silent sections of any of these songs. Every song is all out fuzz riffs. There are no examples head and shoulders above the rest, but look at “Escaping Devil Bullets”. The driving beat and aggressive riff continues even under the distorted vocals. Even the cowbells are treated the same. It’s unusual to hear a band treat each instrument and addition to each song equally. The mixing on this record takes the philosophy of the live show: you can try to balance everything out together, but you can’t control for everything when it’s all happening at the same time. Unlike most bands, Hell Obelisco just embraces it. “This is what we sound like all the time. You don’t like it? We don’t need you.”

Now combine this sound with the lyrical content. You can sense the stoner metal influences there especially. The music is straightforward and no frills, but the lyrics and track titles bring out the psychedelic influences. “Earth Rage Apocalypse” starts off with a transmission from space with a warning. The song then describes the earth trying to reject humanity. You could take any line from the song, but “heaven is bleeding with the rage of nature” just encapsulates not only the song but this record as a whole. Each song is either telling a story of destruction and woe or describing some otherworldly or supernatural creature. If that’s why you tune into a record, then you won’t be disappointed here.

It’s hard to knock this album. The stripped down the quality of it is something anybody could enjoy. It’s just guitars, bass, drums and shouting. Do you like hardcore? Do you like sludge? Do you like your metal with some stoner psychedelia? Then you like Hell Obelisco.

Swamp Wizard Rises is available 3/23 via Argonauta Records.

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