Entering the Underground #3: Obscene Invades “The Inhabitable Dark”
Entering the Underground is a column that explores the underground metal scene, featuring interviews with bands making their mark just under the radar.
Obscene are pretty much everything that death metal should be. They don’t care about trends, they don’t care about fitting in, and they don’t compromise. The band formed back in 2016 in Indiana under the name “Blood Chasm," but after just a year they changed to Obscene, independently dropped a killer demo that was successful enough to get a repress on Blood Harvest Records, and set about writing their full length.
That debut album, The Inhabitable Dark, dropped on Blood Harvest in June and proved pretty handily why Indiana is still a force to be reckoned with in the underground death metal scene. Harkening as much to the atmospheric decay of Brutality as to the ripping chunkiness of Asphyx or Obituary, the whole package is a hymn to a side of death metal that is explored less these days than it should be—eerie maniac vocals, catchy riffing, and dynamic songwriting catch just right, and killer lyrics set the tone for mayhem. Joining us this week is their vocalist, Kyle, to talk about what makes Obscene so damn good.
Thanks for doing this interview with Invisible Oranges! To start, The Inhabitable Dark has been out for some eight months now. How do you feel the reception was?
Hey, thanks for having us! I feel the reception has been pretty positive overall. It seems to have sold well enough, landed on a few year end lists, and we've come across far more positive reactions than the inevitable negativity.
Did you get back nice words from anyone cool?
I don't wanna name drop anyone but yes, a few unexpected purchases from prominent names happened and I noticed some shoutouts from other labels we respect and are fans of.
The album’s artwork was drawn by Mark Riddick. How did you decide on him and get in touch initially?
Mark had purchased a shirt and demo tape of Sermon to the Snake shortly after release and I got a little starstruck by that. I wound up writing a lengthy thank you note and he emailed us shortly after and we stayed in consistent contact. He had asked if I had any interest to provide vocals for his Fetid Zombie project on a 4 way split between them, Nucleus, Ectoplasma, and Temple of Void. My reaction was pretty much 'gee, don't twist my arm here, of corpse I'm interested'. And when it came down to deciding on an artist for the record, Mark was pretty much the only considered choice seeing that we already established a relationship with him and having his work speak for itself.
Does that mean you’ll be using him again for future material?
Nothing confirmed at the moment, but we'd all be delighted to work with Mark again be it for another record, split, or future merch designs.
Are there any other artists you’re keeping an eye on for future releases or for merch?
I don't wanna play our hand too hard here, but other names have been discussed for LP 2. Some other artists I'd personally love to work with are Chris Moyen, Paolo Girardi, Putrid Carr, Karmazid, Matt Stikker, Skadvaldur, Daniel Shaw, Dan Seagrave, Adam Burke, and so much more.
Circling back to your vocals—how did you end up with your fairly unique vocal approach?
Good question. I don't really know haha. I had been in previous sludge and grind bands but I was always the dude into death metal in those projects and tried introducing vocal aspects from some heroes of mine like Van Drunen, Lindberg, Tardy, Killjoy, Reifert and Grewe. With Obscene, I've seen people refer to it as 'hardcore' which I don't really hear but maybe that's the end result of having been in sludge and grind bands that tow the metal/punk line. I won't deny some sludge influence like Johnny Morrow or Edgy 59 that may have unintentionally seeped through. I've noticed some polarization when it comes to the style from people but ultimately I think if anyone listens to records like Dreaming with the Dead, Holocausto de la Morte, In the Embrace of Evil, The Rack, etc and puts on our record they'll understand the trajectory is a similar one even if that is a bit rare in today's climate.
Were those records influences on the riffing and songwriting as well? I can definitely hear some Florida in there…
I don't know if all those records were specific influences on the riffing, but you're dead on with Florida. Mike's a massive Morbid Angel fan as are the rest of us and the influence is pretty salient along with Obituary, Death, Massacre, Brutality, Nocturnus, Deicide, etc.
I definitely felt like there was some cool atmosphere in there that’s not so common in this vein of death metal—was that coming from the Brutality and Nocturnus?
I wouldn't say it was intentional, but we do value atmosphere in death metal that isn't gimmicky and I'd say bands like Brutality and Nocturnus would be good examples of that. I'd also include a Finnish band like Demigod or Gorement from Sweden as stellar examples as well. While this band and it's goals are pretty much to deliver meat and potatoes death metal, we yearn for depth and atmosphere as well and I think the 4 aforementioned bands are important to us for those reasons.
Are there any influences on the record that might surprise fans?
There are two that come to mind. Van Halen with the solos, and I had the lyrical layout on the record akin to Eyehategod with them being scattered amongst the ruins. I did that more or less to convey the mental erosion of The Inhabitable Dark.
Initially Obscene was called “Blood Chasm." Why did you change the name, and why to Obscene?
So, a number of reasons for the name change. We had played a little less than a handful of shows as Blood Chasm (all local) never recorded anything under the name or printed any merch. Once we hunkered down to record, we had noticed a plethora of newer bands with 'blood' in their name. Also, one of our guitarists at the time had to quit for personal reasons. With all these factors, we felt it was time to start anew. Obscene is a gnarly word and something of an homage to one of Dismember's best records. At least our intent with the name. The latin translation is 'obscaenus' and meant to be ill-omened and abominable. We feel that's an accurate description for our band.
You mention an affinity for one-word band names. What else was in the hat before you decided on Obscene? Do you have any other favorites from recent bands?
Man, I wish I can remember the other names brought to the fold but unfortunately I don't. I think Vomit Penance was one but that would be a little too 'sewer' sounding for what our band presents. Some recent one word bands I like both namewise and musically are Molder, Phobophilic, Azath, Draghkar, Necrot, Horrendous, Ossuarium, Ossuary, Nucleus, Absconder, Inoculation, etc.
What are some of your all-time favorites?
I'll just post a top 5 for everyone's sake. In no order and very interchangeable. Black Sabbath, Incantation, Carcass, Darkthrone, Hellhammer.
The Inhabitable Dark dropped on Blood Harvest Records, and Rodrigo also reissued Sermon to the Snake on cassette. How did you end up getting in touch with him?
He had heard about us through Dutch's "Demo:listen" column on Decibel Magazine, liked the band and offered us a deal. Given Blood Harvest's discography, it seemed like a no brainer. Bastard Priest's Under the Hammer of Destruction was an important album for me getting back into death metal so it was a cool honor to sign with them.
Good ol’ Dutch! What are some other favorites from the Blood Harvest discography that Invisible Oranges readers should check out?
I loved that Contaminated release from a few years ago. Soo fucken heavy. I think most IO readers are already familiar with Tomb Mold, Tribulation, and Suffering Hour, but those are also worthy of mention. Serpentrance is another one that doesn't get nearly enough praise. I think Zealot Cult are superb and a pretty similar sonic lineage with us. I think Abythic and Bloodsoaked Necrovoid moved on, but both their releases on Blood Harvest kill.
Outside of Blood Harvest releases, what are some of your other favorites—perhaps from your home state?
I'll stick with the home state theme to control myself ha. My personal favorite is likely The Dream is Dead's Hail the New Pawn. Way ahead of its time and predated a lot of that Nails/Trap Them stuff but was more ferocious and heady. There's still nothing else quite like it. Harakiri was the first Indianapolis band I got into as a teen and I think their material holds up as well as any other technical death metal from that era (late 90's/early aughts) with the exception that they were a little more riff oriented than most of their peers. Their full length is great, but I'm a little partial to the Virtuous Symptoms EP. The Gates of Slumber and Apostle of Solitude are pretty much household names in the doom world. Apostle in particular have been a model of consistency the past 15 years. All of their material is worthwhile but I'll mention Conqueror and Sincerest Misery. Coffinworm also still deserves praise. Just a gnarly blend of sludge and death/black. Both albums rule but I'll name drop their debut When All Became None. Some Indiana bands worth keeping an eye on are Shroud of Vulture, Mother of Graves, Legion, Hatesong, Graveripper, Truus, Kvlthammer, Crisis Actor, and Throne of Iron.
You mentioned earlier that you played in other bands before Obscene, and I know Brandon was briefly involved with Acheron and a few other bands. Do you think you guys could have done The Inhabitable Dark the same way far without all of that past band experience?
Man, that's another great question. Hard to say but I'm gonna say no. We were able to knock it all out in the course of 3 days, and you can't do that without some notches under your belt. Having said that, I think this is the first 'professional studio' experience any of us had. Carl Byers, who also recorded our Sermon demo, handled the reins, and both Roy and I had worked with him in previous bands as well. So, that made the experience seem a little relaxed, because only a few days with someone you don't know can be hectic and nerve wracking.
Will you guys do the “professional studio" thing again now that you’ve gotten a taste for it?
Oh absolutely! We've decided to take more time with LP 2. Not that 'The Inhabitable Dark' was a rushed effort by any means, but the freedom to potentially add more and be more self critical can only be beneficial.
What’s next for Obscene?
Right now we're in the writing process for LP 2 and a potential split. We're hoping to get studio time booked this fall or winter. We're slated to perform at Full Terror Assault in September alongside bands like Exodus, Internal Bleeding, Bat, and much more as long as the plague lets up.
Do you have anything else to talk about or promote?
Nah, not really. Thanks for having us and keep it Obscene! Hail and kill!
The Inhabitable Dark released June 12th, 2020 via Blood Harvest Records.