Even semi-regular readers will probably be aware by now that even if I have plenty of time for music that is creative and challenging, I’m not a big fan of overt prog influences. So, when I review a record like The Obscene Rite by US duo Veilburner, that should probably be taken in to account. The album is a black/death beast that gets practically everything right when it comes to prog sounds and influences, with the music feeling creative and exciting rather than bloated and self-indulgent. Comparisons to the likes of Arcturus, Dødheimsgard, and Akercocke are all warranted and deserved, which must give some further indication of how good this album is. Even if prog-influenced metal isn’t usually your thing, there’s more than enough power and quality in The Obscene Rite to potentially win you over.
The overall effect of the album is of taking some head-spinning trip in to alien lands, that possesses just enough familiarity for its strangeness to be even more disturbing. There’s often a hazy, psychedelic air, and even a few industrial flourishes, as well as a few moments of Deathspell Omega-esque discord. If that makes it all sounds like there’s a lot going on during The Obscene Rite, well, you’d be correct. But remarkably, it all hangs together and flows in smooth, natural ways that never feel jarring. Second track “Necroquantum Plague Asylum” is a prime example of this, with the song rarely settling on one style or movement for long. Its almost seven minute duration flies by, an utterly captivating journey that is hugely impressive.
A strong sense of drama runs throughout The Obscene Rite, and given that it concludes a trilogy that began with first album The Three Lightbearers, this is only fitting. Even though it’s part of a larger body of work, you don’t need to be familiar with Veilburner’s previous works to enjoy The Obscene Rite, though it’s difficult to shake the sense that I’d get more out of it had I heard their previous two albums before this one. Even so, this should be taken as a positive: even without full knowledge of its context and theme, that The Obscene Rite could win me over so comprehensively attests to its strength.
Aside from all this story-telling and drama though, the album is built upon a strong, solid core of experimental black/death metal. There are plenty of punishing riffs and pummeling drums, as well as stirring leads and moments of technical brilliance. “Eucharist Of The Breathing Abyss” is a great example of this, being a more unsettling track placed somewhere between Akercocke and Deathspell Omega; whilst “Baphometic Catalyst” feels like a more punishing Arcturus for the large part, albeit with guitars taking the lead rather than keyboards. Closer “Phainops” sees the experimental nature of Veilburner carry on right until the end of the album, combining blackened industrial metal reminiscent of Red Harvest with prog flourishes and a tangible sense of drama. It’s a fitting end to a very impressive album, and that The Obscene Rite is self-released is quite a surprise. The production is superb, and there’s such self-belief and confidence throughout that it’s surely only a matter of time until a label sees fit to bring Veilburner’s music to a wider audience. The Obscene Rite certainly deserves to be heard by a larger audience than it probably will be, as this is experimental metal of rare quality.
The Obscene Rite is due for release on 30th September 2016. It can be pre-ordered via Bandcamp.