Melding what initially sound like disparate strands of music together is nothing new and experimentation is something that can either keep things fresh or simply become a gimmick. It’s very much the former case as far as Obsiquiae, the vision of US musician Tanner Anderson is concerned and although black metal with a very medieval focus has been explored in the past it is fair to say that truly dipping into the renaissance era of classicism sees him standing alone with a wholly unique take on things. Back with a third album, following up on 2015 release ‘Aria Of Vernal Tombs’ we see him back with Spanish medieval harpist Vicente La Camera Mariño along with new drummer since last recording Eoghan McCloskey.
As soon as play is pressed and instrumental opener ‘L’autrier m’en aloie’ has the harp literally singing its notes this is an instantly identifiable world. It’s fascinating as the two worlds come together with the more modern instruments coming into play along with blackened vocals on ‘Ceres in Emerald Streams,’ and moods and atmospheres of past along with present combine. There’s a lot of classicism in the guitar playing itself when it weaves around crafting melodies that would not have been out of place in a band like Thin Lizzy and have evolved into the work of more modern leviathans such as Mastodon. That may sound strange for the outsider who has never heard this band but believe you me it all makes sense. Of-course it is enforced by an at times heathen cleave and blackened swagger that one may find in a pagan black metal band. Tanner’s rasp and an occasional battering of the drums brings all these worlds together and the weeping notes sound absolutely sublime and timeless dipping you through the ages as they twist and turn.
Then you can attune yourself to the sheer poeticism of the project. Tanner has said in the past when I interviewed him that he quite sensibly prefers the listener to make their own mind up on the themes and any meanings behind the music and the incredibly descriptive song titles make this easy to do. Among the 12 tracks here we have ‘In The Garden Of Hyacinths’ which can alert other senses and just reading it allow you to literally smell the perfume exuded, instrumental ‘Palästinalied’ flinging you into visions of The Crusades and ‘Asleep In The Bracken’ perhaps after a roll in it with a strumpet of yore.
Things are structured with passages that are solely, like the opener, the song of the harp without any interference and more modern trappings. Others are more fully realised and allowed to breathe giving a unique, singular vision and one that takes this into otherworldly realms. However, this does kind of exist as much in its own timeframes as something solely in the underground. Could Obsiquiae perhaps see themselves breaking into the consciousness of the mainstream perhaps like the black and blues of a band such as Zeal And Ardor? I think probably not although wondering how it all could be interpreted live is an interesting train of thought. Perhaps touring American renaissance fairs ala Romero’s Knightriders (if such things still exist) would be the way to take things, or maybe playing on a stage in European market towns in places like France and Germany around the bustle of food and mead stalls with others offering traditional hand-crafted goods? Interestingly my press sheet does state that several festival performances are planned for 2020 and they could certainly be very interesting affairs indeed.
For now though we are left with the magical musical mythology of songs like ‘Morrígan’ to cast their spell and take us out of the hurly-burly world we exist in and to another place and time entirely. It’s one well worth exploring and like the castle depicted on the cover something that could well survive the ravages of history itself
(8/10 Pete Woods)