Louder, slower, darker : OBELYSKKH “The Ultimate Grace of God”

Written by Album Review

“Over the top”. Here’s a saying that has lost most of its meaning in recent years, yet it perfectly describes what Obelyskkh delivered on “The Ultimate Grace Of God”. Their fourth album was recorded in late 2020 and finally saw the light on Exile on Mainstream Records to fill our ears with delightful sludgy noisy nonsense.

When I say “over the top”, I think of a piece of art where all knobs are turned to 11, up to the point that it might lose coherence and meaning. One could argue that the concept of being “over the top” is, in itself, strong and interesting enough to lead an entire album. 

Let’s look at the opening track “Aquaevil”, as it illustrates pretty well this concept. From the kid voice sample to heavy-as-hell riffing with massive production, the cavernous and mocking vocal lines, hushed parts, harmonies, dissonant guitars, and this breakdown-esque bridge with grandiloquent singing (in the Osbornian noble sense)… all of this within the first 4 minutes. But what really settles this “over the top” concept is this filthy bass halfway through the song. Never have I heard such an insane amount of gain and dirt on a bass track, except maybe in the most ridiculous electro genres. And yet, it is brilliant. It’s sweaty, it’s disgusting and feels like thrown up in our ears until pristine lead guitars finally lay on top of it. From there on, the song falls into pure chaos, with its nightmarish and borderline droning. It’s too much, but it’s too good!

And the rest of the record is just as creative and surprising, even if it at times flirt with indigestion: it remains fascinating. The eponymous track lurks more into mid-2000s chaotic hardcore references, yet perfectly inadequate vocals give the song a very charming mood. The spatialization of the mix loses us in a tornado of echoes, everywhere, all the time. If God is in fact full of Grace, he sure likes to do triple axles to mess with our brains. And then again, the track will take several more turns from a quieter and atmospheric part up to an epic solo with added bells. For once, only our imagination is the limit here.

“Black Mother” is closer to what you’d usually expect from a conventional Noise / Sludge act, if that makes any sense. It’s a classic mix between Unsane and the Melvins but keeping it fresh with a personal touch (in the form of horns / unidentified instruments midway through the track), the band allows us to breathe and recharge our batteries before the last numbers.

“Dog Headed God” tente le coup de la vraie fausse piste posée pour partir en dissonance et violence crasse. C’est bien fait, ça tape fort avec un relent très 90’s, des plus appréciables. On nous gratifie même d’un retour de la basse la plus délicieusement dégueulasse de l’histoire moderne, déjà évoquée précédemment. Le titre s’évade, sans surprise cette fois, dans un torrent de noise bruitiste. Enfin, “Sat Nam” vient clore le bal. Le titre fleuve culmine à 16 minutes 48 et nous propose un condensé de tout ce que le groupe maîtrise parfaitement. La dissonance, les passages planants, les folies hypnotiques, les superpositions de chants grandiloquents, la lourdeur, les changements de rythme ET de tempo. Mais une fois de plus les Allemands viennent nous cueillir avec l’ajout de percussions électroniques pour un passage indus référençant aussi bien NiN que les mastodontes nationaux de Rammstein (des années 90’s, rassurez vous). Les dernières minutes viennent nous gifler encore davantage les tympans à bases de nappes et autres joyeusetés cacophoniques avant que notre liberté ne nous soit rendue par quelques ultimes notes … de piano. 

“Dog Headed God” plays the card of the supposedly quiet track that will quickly turn to evil dissonances and dirty violence. It’s really well made with a hint of 90’s flavor that I’m always fond of. We even get the return of the infamous filthy bass we mentioned earlier. The song will then go wild, unsurprisingly this time, with waves and layers of noise. Finally, “Sat Nam” arrives for the closing number. The track is an astonishing 16 minutes and 48 seconds long and combines everything the band masters. The dissonances, the atmospheric parts, the hypnotic madness, the layers of grotesque vocals, the heaviness, the rhythm and tempo variations, it’s all there. This time, the German trio surprises us with the addition of electronic percussion on an indus-infused bridge reminiscing NiN but also … the national heroes Rammstein (the one from the 90s, no fear to have). For the last minutes, we fall into cacophony and other joyful experimentations before our ears finally get released with a few final piano notes. 

“Over the top” as I initially stated. “The Ultimate Grace of God” is extremely generous and just as creative as it is well-produced. It’s an album that encapsulates perfectly the singular universe the band evolves in. It’s also a rather complicated album to get into. It does lose you at times. It is one of these albums you wish would be slightly more balanced as every brilliant idea is chased by the next one, not always as good. This direction is sometimes working perfectly (especially on the opening and closing tracks for me) and when it does, the tracks are magnificent and you’ll return to them regularly.

In any case, this extreme approach questions our relationship with extreme music. I absolutely loved it but it’s not going to be for everyone. If you want sludge / noise, that’s precisely what you’ll get, even if it ends up making you sick. Because Obelyskkh knows the recipe to the secret potion and they are very dogmatic about it. What? You really thought I would finish this review without making this joke?

ARTIST: Obelyskkh
ALBUM: The Ultimate Grace of God
RELEASED: 27th January 2023
LABEL: Exile On Mainstream Records
GENRE: Sludge noise
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Last modified: 28 March 2023