Obscene Drag Death Metal “…from Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon” (Interview)
I’ve made my abiding fondness for Obscene pretty clear over the years. One of the first Entering the Underground columns that I wrote was celebrating their first album, the excellent The Inhabitable Dark, and just two years after that colossal masterpiece dropped is the band’s new album ...from Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon.
Obscene is not a band that fucks around; they’re death metal by underground death metal fans, for underground death metal fans. Any fan coming in here will not get slams, caveman bullshit, cavernous stuff, technical wankery, chainsaw riffs over d-beats, dissonant skronks, or anything else that’s been the flavor-of-the-month in the time since I’ve been listening to death metal. Obscene instead are dedicated only to the purest of untrendy sick riffs, which can mean anything from a Frost-y stomp to harrowing tremolo melodies to Floridian death/thrash and beyond. In a world of trendy and retrospective death metal bands, Obscene are difficult to narrow down because they actually have a sound; though of course individual riffs are sometimes easy to point at clear influences, their overall sound is very much their own.
That individuality that Obscene brings to the table comes from a powerful quad attack: the actual riffing itself, Kyle Shaw’s rather unique vocal approach, a dynamic drum-job, and songwriting that is significantly more expansive and ambitious than might be expected from the story that individual riffs tell. There’s not a lot of bands in the first place taking an even sort-of similar approach to what Obscene is doing (sludge-Morbid Angel crossed with Brutality? Obituary goes Demigod?), and add on that Kyle sounds like a tormented, strangled Van Drunen rasping over often non-intuitive drums that hammer when another drummer would blast or vice versa and the effect is very singular: this is a band that is not going to be satisfied repeating whatever their peers are doing.
A decent amount of modern death metal is like popcorn and you can just throw it in your face without thinking about it, and it’s not necessarily even worth doing any reflection with even some of the most killer modern death metal around because there’s nothing deeper than some sick riffs tossed together in a standard way. Unlike the straightforward bands that Obscene might be compared to on the surface level, the buildups and clever arrangement that Obscene do tells a story that we’d all do well to heed–lest we miss out on one of the coolest goddamn records you’ll hear this year.
Read below for an interview with the band and give this one a listen immediately.
The Inhabitable Dark dropped in the midst of the global Covid-19 pandemic, which obviously hampered promotional efforts via touring. This time around, Obscene did a raging ten dates with Morta Skuld in promotion of the appropriately named ...from Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon, and you’ve been able to play other shows and festivals alongside the tour. Have you noticed a significant disparity in reception to correspond with all of the gigging?
Brandon Howe: I feel like the best and most authentic, trustworthy way to gain attraction and to see a growth in reception, is to get out and play shows. Anywhere outside of your comfort zone. Visit new places. Meet new people. Play with different bands. Our reception on that run was excellent. We cleared house on merch, had mostly great crowds that were already familiar with our work, and made some substantial new connections. The Morta Skuld guys were some of the greatest humans to share the stage and tour with. We can't wait to hit the road again and crush new territories.
Does the reception to your music mean anything to y’all other that the cool factor that people like your art?
Kyle Shaw: I can only speak for myself here but yes and no. It's very fulfilling and validating to have fellow peers and people you've looked up to and admired compliment and support your craft. On the flip side, we ultimately write and record music we want to listen to. Even if no one bought our stuff or came to our shows, we'd probably still get together regularly to come up with songs.
Cool samples are a sort of staple of the Obscene package at this point. Where do you get them all? What inspired you to start including them?
Kyle: I've always been a fan of samples in music. A lot of what inspires me as a lyricist is a good amount of cinema and literature so in a way it's both paying tribute and using them as a manner of enhancing the material. Our guitarist Mike actually came thru with the intro sample for '...From Dead Horizon', and it fit perfectly for what we wanted to accomplish. I mean, the whole Stone Cold one has taken on a life itself in its own right, haha. Some samples we've used have come from ol' Stone Cold, The VVitch, the Netflix Ted Bundy documentary, Lord of the Rings, Gladiator, Near Dark, and The Cook, The Thief, His Wife & Her Lover.
Some of the early Swedish death metal bands (and Morbid Angel) famously took it a step further and borrowed directly from horror movie soundtracks when writing their music rather than sticking to samples. Does any of that make it into Obscene?
Kyle: Never say never, but I don't foresee that happening. Mostly because most of the cool ones have already been done haha. It's sorta the same reason why this band isn't gonna use a sample from 'Evil Dead' and 'Hellraiser'. Both great and important but the horse has been beat.
After two albums with Swedish-based label Blood Harvest Records is there any willpower to swap to a domestic label at any point? Will Obscene stick with Blood Harvest forever?
Brandon: Blood Harvest has been absolutely great to us since day one. I really think they're the perfect label for underground death metal in this day and age. It's hard to really say and to speak for the future. Only time will tell, my friend. Bigger things may come forth and present themselves.
Is being on a label that really fits with your vision of music important, or a consideration? Is there anything to be said for a label that doesn’t fit much but is supportive?
Kyle: A label that fits our vision is pretty paramount. We're a death metal band that doesn't have a lot of appeal to those uninterested in the genre. I'm not saying that a potential label has to have a 100% death metal roster. Hell, the ones that are probably aren't interested in us because we're not slam or caverncore or whatever. But I don't see the point in being the one death metal band on a post rock label or something haha.
...from Dead Horizon to Dead Horizon released May 27th, 2022 via Blood Harvest Records.