October 29, 2020

Amorphous and constantly reinventing heavy metal-alternative rock group Obsidian Kingdom drop their third genre-smashing album, MEAT MACHINE - Album Review

Obsidian Kingdom - MEAT MACHINE Review

Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE Album Artwork

Obsidian Kingdom are no strangers to change, as we have seen from our exclusive interview with them. By their third full-length LP, they have proven themselves as masters of reinvention with a talent for displaying a wide swath of genre sensibilities. It all started with their debut maxi-single, Matter, a 5-track black-metal ode to the elements. Their follow-up EP, 3:11, showed a tighter production quality with 3 massive songs, but still treading familiar waters. What really set Obsidian Kingdom apart was their full-length debut, Mantiis, a sprawling single song concept album subdivided into 14 tracks that go from theatrical, to hard rock, to heavy black metal, and back, all with elements of electronic music and other styles. What it did essentially was take the overarching genre of heavy metal and lit it on fire. A Year With No Summer was no different. Released in 2016, the group blended more elements of drone metal, electronic atmospheres, and alternative rock. Now, just a month ago, MEAT MACHINE defines Obsidian Kingdom as their own trailblazers. 

It can’t be more apparent than in Rider’s opening lines of the album, “Can you feel now? The currents have changed, a thin leak through, the rattling of teeth,” from the opening track THE EDGE. It’s not even a minute in its runtime before it performs the album’s first impressive change, as guitarist Irene steps in to soften the heavy blow. "A wrenched heart," she sings, "could not bear, to keep me quiet, or hold us close, a trace drawn, across the wet floor, a body dragged like a corpse." The track then flows right back into its original groove. Songs such as these are plentiful in MEAT MACHINE, and they offer the listener a widening spectrum of sounds as the album plays out. THE PUMP follows with grandiose arena rock and heavy metal vibes, and it becomes apparent that these songs are designed to be delivered in their full glory when played live. "Relentlessly, we feed, THE PUMP, and it keeps growing on and on, all our lives," Rider sings with frenetic desperation. "Your body is not a temple, is not holy, is just food for THE PUMP, food for THE PUMP." The Pump in this instance takes on the role of all machinations that people willingly give up their energies to, that of which never seems to satiate, and it's one of the many cogs that keep this record spinning. 

Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE CD Booklet

The bleating heart of MR PAN's synthesized intro speaks of horror film scores and makes for an atmospheric place setting of the track's themes. Pan, the ancient god of the wilderness and the natural world, has been used in folklore to help others in revealing the world for the way it really is, and it's the perfect vehicle for Obsidian Kingdom to transport listeners into the nether realm of momentary bliss. The song takes effective stabs as a fluctuating heavy metal rocker, with guitars that soar and take listeners along for an epic ride somewhere undetermined, yet utterly satisfying. NAKED POLITICS, the first song of the album to depart from the heavy metal stylings that the group is known for, takes a detour into alternative rock, as Rider chronicles the feeling of endlessly playing this superficial game of life, pushing our bodies to the brink until we break. Irene joins in with Rider during the breakdown, "A body is just a body, and a body is just a frame, echoes of a blank space, to be filled with your pain." The flesh is a canvas for the living to suffer upon, and Obsidian Kingdom understand this universal truth. 

FLESH WORLD, the following track, doesn't pull any punches either, and it is in essence the greatest break from the album so far. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of a soft angelic vocalist cooing over lush and electronic instrumentation, and the hints of electronica that Rider spoke about in our interview fully shines on this track. It is a completely addicting and eclectic mix of heavy rock choruses and Irene's vocal talent. MEAT STAR, the band's first single, is forever illuminating in its power and glory. The slow swagger of the heavy metal riffs along with Rider's screams speaks of the need to be remembered and not forgotten in this hectic and crazy world. Before long, the drumbeat kicks into a double-timed groove leading up to the chorus. "Peel the dirt off of my eyes," he sings, "believe, the star is burning bright, no burden can drag me down, give in, glory will be mine." The unwavering determination pulled off in this song is complemented by an intense and visually stunning music video, which we covered in our interview. Whether occultism gives MEAT STAR a power in and unto itself is up for debate, but it remains without a doubt flawless and destined for greatness. 

There are many sonic nuggets of brilliance sprinkled throughout MEAT MACHINE, all distilling the tracks with a sense of fullness, and a feeling that these guys are fans of all different kinds of music. SPANKER is no exception to this notion. Its hard rock flair shows off this side of the band. Rider's singing is punctuated with wailing guitars, a faster-drummed chorus, and a complete Floydian breakdown full of guitars, synths, drums, and ghostly moans. The arena rock style fits nicely with this band, and it goes to show why they have such a great presence and reputation as a live act. VOGUE, the third to last song, takes a dive into the wallows of lust, desire, and compulsive violence. The simultaneously exciting and ugly parts of life come together in this track, and Rider's chorus is a call to be with (and inside) a lover, which quickly degrades into the depths of murderous rage. This line is carefully walked, and thoughts of crimes of passion make this song all the more chilling. 

Obsidian Kingdom MEAT MACHINE CD Booklet

WOMB OF WIRE, the penultimate cut, shows off more of Obsidian Kingdom's inclination to form electronic soundscapes. The introduction feels like a horror film that is about to unfold. WOMB OF WIRE is a blend of electronic atmosphere, hard rock riffs, heavy metal growls, and Irene's gentle response to Rider's rough verse, "look close, how shapes dissolve, it's dire, and it's sublime, how fragile we are." The middle and end of this track are notable for the group's fondness for electronic beats. A FOE takes all that we've learned from the album thus far, and spins it into a final mention, and plays out as a beautifully bittersweet ballad for Irene to shine with the final word. A FOE is a calculated measure of the cruel world that we all live in. It's a question of if love and tenderness are real and whether the central figure feels deserving of it. It's a song that ultimately the singer resigns to her fate. "And I think I could cry, and I think I could beg, but the die has been cast, so I sit down instead, when the reel wears too thin, to contain all the shame, we will ride on the cart, to my gruesome end." It is sobering, and it is the ultimate come down from an album full of extreme highs. 

Obsidian Kingdom take listeners on a ride that is exhilarating and unforgettable with their third LP. As the fluorescent man, a bio-plant-like human from the Saga of the Swamp Thing would say about people, “I hate it when steaks cry.” MEAT MACHINE takes this theme of physicality and mortality and explores it fully, veering into the stratosphere of what drives people, and if there is more to this world than what we see before our eyes. For a third album that is vastly different than the two that have come before it, it doesn't show any signs of complacency, and the constantly shifting sound of Obsidian Kingdom has only proven that this band is stronger than ever before. 

Obsidian Kingdom Red Vinyl MEAT MACHINE


Recommended Tracks: MR. PAN, FLESH WORLD, MEAT STAR