Whilst steadily garnering a reputation in their native Balkans, Bulgarian trio Obsidian Sea finally saw some US action in 2016 with a repress of second album Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions (Nuclear War Now! Records). Third album Strangers sees a Ripple Music release that will undoubtedly propel the psych-Doom outfit further.
The rather spooky, swerving riff of opener ‘The Birth Of Fear’ blends an Occult feel with spectral echoes and a Proto Metal groove, startling leadwork and whistling organ the highlight of some electric bridges and a more pensive second half. The production is delightfully monaural, giving a devilish, dated fuzz to the sinister, gothic ‘Every Heart Hides A Killer’: Anton Avramov’s voice wailing over a slow, rhythm-heavy harbinger. The changes in tempo, despite being sudden and striking, merely add to the eerie effects and are again given air by stunning lead wails.
‘A Shore Without A Sea’ is as Hammer Horror as the title might suggest: swirling winds dancing through ominous drums, Avramov’s delicate, edgy chords, and more organ warps. This first of two nine-minute epics is governed by tentative trudges through isolated graveyards and bursts of rampant rhythms which maintain the ghostly feel, and it’s here that the beautiful spectre of classic Pentagram truly looms. Delyan Karaianov’s basslines are chilling yet fluid, while those slower sections are nicely bossed by Bozhidar Parvanov’s stickwork and Avramov’s howling, layered leads. The meaningful title track, meanwhile, is a paradoxical careening trot, weighing early Styx with the low, humming power of Black Sabbath.
More ponderous tension comes with ‘The Demolished Man’, a staggered structure dismantled for the most part at near-funereal pace and carrying the emotion of a true lament. Here the pace is manipulated by all instruments so expertly, so perfectly, that it seems impossible for the tempo to be held. It’s a great precursor to the closing ‘The Play’, a melodious paean to the skies given a true Baltic feel by the Eastern-flavoured vocal, bridges and lead riff.
Again the sudden lift of pace changes direction yet maintains cohesion: merely a lifting of energy, an Iommi-style riff injecting temporary fire. The lovely Proggy vibe of the verses are scented with the 70s, while Armatov’s chorus vocal carries the cold romantic tones of Glenn Gregory. This suite of movements never loses its Heavy loyalty however, despite a delicate finale.
It’s an album with dark mysticism at its core but Strangers possesses a warmth and a welcome dose of indigenous passion that could well see Obsidian Sea forge a wider appreciation of their rare identity. Involving and eminently listenable.
7 / 10