Review by Will Harris
It didn’t take long for German doomers Obelyskkh to put together Hymn to Pan: it was recorded only a matter of months after their 2012 effort White Lightnin’, yet there are immediate differences in style and approach on the new record. It’s certainly moved on in a lot of respects from their 2011 debut, Mount Nysa, a five-track collection that shifted slightly clumsily between pacing Hawkwind-like psych, thundering stoner rock and plodding monolithic doom; their fuzz-o-riffic second album, meanwhile, steadied the pace and evened the tone with relentless sludge, and threw in some hardcore screaming to increase the attack. Lightnin’’s closing track, ‘Invocation to the Old Ones’, with its six-minute ambient intro and a song structure that consisted of building abrasive, competing layers of noise, screaming and madness over a solid riff base, hinted towards a more experimental, more ambitious side to Obelyskkh, and their latest record sees them venture forth with more such experimentation across a whole album — albeit tentatively.
On a cursory listen, it’s easy to start getting excited about Hymn to Pan: the heaving, monumental riffs, the noisy psychedelic leads, the spooky piano outro of ‘The Ravens’; they all point towards a band that’s refining their songcraft, and beginning to feel comfortable enough in their own niche to start adding a new-found depth to their music. But further spins exposes some of the stand-out parts as underdeveloped: some of the riffs, such as the main one in ‘Heaven’s Architrave’, lose their punch by going on for too long; the demented guitar solos often remain too buried in the mix to have impact; that closing piano bit to ‘The Ravens’ could’ve been used to great effect as overture to the next track, but instead it’s just a keyboard arrangement of the former guitar riff. Likewise, when the growled, mid-tempo thrash of closer ‘Revelation: The Will To Nothingness’ descends through a slowing stoner riff to some loose, bluesy guitar solos, you want to give Obelyskkh points for trying, but you also wish that they’d spent a bit longer thinking about how to make it work.
That said, Hymn to Pan, for the most part, is a highly enjoyable album; the opening title track goes from birdsong and pastoral hunting horns through an ominous intro of sinister guitars and flat-lining feedback to full-on lumbering doom, which in turn breaks down into a middle eight of dark, druid-like vocal passages before roaring into fire again for a mighty, maddening coda. Elsewhere there are further moments of glory: the dizzying lead guitars and near-tuneless harmony bends that invade ‘Heaven’s Architrave’; the head-nodding stoner hook of ‘Horse’; the sample of the “death has a special smell” passage from William S. Burroughs’ ‘The Name Is Clem Snide’ at the beginning of ‘The Man Within’. The components are all there to form something compelling and different, Obelyskkh’s task for the future therefore is refining their songs and paving over the cracks. They’re clearly a band that’s beginning to aspire to greatness, attempting to unearth something deeper and more profound; Hymn to Pan, however, doesn’t quite achieve it.
7 out of 10
- Hymn to Pan
- The Ravens
- The Man Within
- Heaven’s Architrave
- Revelation: The Will to Nothingness