Called To Rise
01. Oblivion Part I: The Chant Of Tyrants
02. Black Veils Of Justice
03. Between Suns of Light
04. Binary Souls
06. Canon in D Minor
08. Reigns in Fire
09. Cancer in Wraiths
11. Oblivion Part II: Infinite Descent
Technical death metal is, admittedly, a rather demanding genre to be a part of. Even when disregarding the usual musical tropes such as song structure, melody, and memorability, the sheer instrumental virtuosity required makes for enough of a filter to wade off most aspiring musicians. Naturally, the real difficulty lies in not disregarding said tropes, rather incorporating them tastefully into the music while staying true to the foundations; but when even the “bad” bands that comprise the genre have to be, in a way, masters of their craft, it’s evident why very few actually reach the plateau of near-universal recognition and praise. Enter Oblivion, a Bay Area-based supergroup of sorts that, while still in their infancy as a band, have a good deal of mileage within their individual careers. Sporting members such as All Shall Perish founding member Ben Orum on bass, and music professor/award-winning composer Nick Vasallo on vocals, Oblivion certainly possess enough potential to join the pantheon of tech-death heavyweights even on their first release. But, does Called to Rise really see this potential come to fruition?
Sadly, the most glaring issue with the record jumps at the listener before this question can be given any kind of verdict. Following a short intro which, while cheesy, is nonetheless effective in setting the stage, the band storm right out of the gates, yet their efforts are marred significantly by poor production. The guitar tone lacks any impact whatsoever, the low-end is barely present, the drums (mostly the snare and kick drum) sound plastic, and the vocals are way too high in the mix, which is weird because they take up most of the sound but also fail to achieve their intended impact. It’s not that the production here is underachieving in terms of audibility, yet one can’t help but feel that whoever mixed and mastered this album completely missed the mark despite having the tools to do a stellar job.
It would be an exaggeration to say that this ruins the album, however, as it becomes less of an issue upon repeated listens and is made much more tolerable by the actual music on display. The sound Oblivion have crafted on Called to Rise is fairly unique, and in no small part due to its derivative appearance. Seems ironic, but this does not mean the band are short on originality, just that they embrace a vast array of influences which are interwoven in a very direct fashion. In addition to what seem staple elements of modern death metal, there are also hints of black metal, such as high-pitched vocals and screeching tremolo picking sections. Nile is also a clear influence, as heard in the Egyptian-esque riffage of songs like ‘Reclamation’. Still at other times, the compositional patterns take on a neoclassical feel and hint at bands that spearhead this style, such as Obscura and Spawn of Possession.
This all-encompassing nature of the band’s sound amounts to some flashes of flat-out brilliance throughout the album. From the majestic guitargasm that is ‘Canon 1 in E Minor’ to the apocalyptic riffing in ‘Multiverse‘, Oblivion provide the listener with a plethora of hooks and just the right amount of curve-balls. They even venture into previously unexplored territory (for metal) via the two bonus tracks, which play out in a breathtaking fashion and give the term ‘orchestral metal’ a whole new meaning by being driven by nothing but orchestrations. Another feat that the band get perfectly right is the nuanced integration of technicality into the music. Every member of the band carries his own weight and proves his skill, but it never seems as if the focus is on force-feeding the instrumental prowess on display. Alas, this does not mean that Oblivion completely avoid the all-too common pitfall of flawed songwriting, because the strokes of genius are sometimes disjointed by mediocrity and filler, and even though the majority of songs are constructed impeccably, there are a couple that feel repetitive and half-assed.
Ultimately, it seems that despite the tremendous potential, Oblivion’s failure to reach true greatness on Called To Rise is a self-inflicted one. However, there’s reasons to see optimism, because it is exactly these errors which are the easiest to absolve. With some polish added to the production and a stronger focus on structural consistency, the band can flesh out their talent to the fullest extent and become a leading force for an entire generation of the genre. Plus, in its own right, this is a remarkable album that succeeds in a lot of ways that most debuts do not. Called to Rise can be looked at as a small step for tech death-kind, but a great step for Oblivion, yet it will not take much to invert this claim. Needless to say, this is a band whose future career path will be intriguing to observe. For the time being, though, you should just do yourself a favor and listen to this album.
Oblivion – Called To Rise