Months back, Melvins’ Basses Loaded album promised a bassapocalypse then sorely under-delivered. It’s a thrill therefore to hear Obake’s new release, Draugr, which fulfils the pent-up desire for bass I’ve been harbouring all year.
The combination of baritone guitar and electric bass creates a broiling, frothing layer that underpins the arrangements throughout. Bass tones aren’t so much foregrounded, it’s their constancy, the way this thick colouring thumbs one’s attention whether curling up around the stark acoustic introduction to ‘The Augur’, or napalming the speakers on ‘Cold Facts’ (It’s an amusing irony that a song called ‘Cold Facts’ should sound so hellishly hot. ‘Cold Facts’ sounds like timber cracking in a burning treeline.)
The band’s dexterity shows in the numerous ways they put these heavier notes to use: at the half-way mark of ‘Immutable’, jazzy fingerpicking infests an ambient mid-section before returning to the kind of heaviness that conjures images of destructive rivers of molten lava. This slip between body-impacting metal and pauses for breath is one of the consistent structural features of Obake’s songs and of this album overall – a chance to gulp down air before being flung back into the mosh. The closing title track is a fair summary of the band’s ambition: simultaneously a ballad, a tone poem, an experimental ambient piece, a doom metal anthem.
It’s this rare talent for binding thematically loose elements into concise and composed forms that sets Obake apart. Some bands are loose, some bands are heavy, some bands are tight – Obake’s skill shows in their ability to do it all at the same time without a single choice sounding out-of-place.