Hymn To Pan is Obelyskkh’s third album in three years, which is no mean feat for a band that originally planned to never release any recorded material. In addition, Obelyskkh’s music is so vast, complex and long that to continually come up with new material at such a rate is genuinely impressive.
Although they’ve been described as psychedelic-doom, there’s much more to Obelyskkh than grinding slow riffs and a generally morbid outlook on life (and death, it’s usually death with doom). The Man Within for example starts with a rolling blackened riff before heading into slightly calmer territory briefly. From there it grinds and growls incessantly, screams of feedback mingling with pounding riffs and hammering drums. It’s the midsection where the chant of “Is everybody in?” that shows there’s more to Obelyskkh than pounding riffage. Squalling guitars, hollered vocals, and what sounds like radio interference combine to make a thoroughly terrifying melee of noise with just a touch of hardcore thrown in for good measure. It’s as if they’ve taken Jim Morrison‘s American Prayer and diluted it into a more direct ritualistic chant. Only the utterly brutal riffing of Horse later on matches it in terms of aggression. With a guttural vocal and direct punk infused riffs there’s more than a nod to the likes of Entombed to be found here.
Ritual is very much at the heart of this album – it is after all, a hymn to Pan, the god of the wild, and, apparently, rustic music. It’s no coincidence then to find the album’s title track beginning with bird song and the trumpeting of hunting horns (old doom fans might well be reminded of Sevenchurch). An absolute monster of a song at over 10 minutes long, it takes the elements of nature and marries them to an absolutely crushing riff. As the song progresses, horns weave in and out of the pounding guitars and hymnal chants punctuate the gloom. As masters of tonal shifts the band know that it’s not just about pure aggression and at the midpoint the song slips into a fog infused haze. Guitars howl and swirl whilst vocals drift in and out, giving praise and evoking the spirits. When the main riff kicks back in, it sounds absolutely colossal and unstoppable. A chugging force of nature that inspires unquestioning worship, it’s a stunning opening to the album.
The Ravens follows and initially it’s a more uptempo affair bordering on thrash rather than doom. It then settles into a stoner groove, allowing the twin vocals to call and respond and the lead guitar to develop an incessant melody. Once again at the midpoint, the song breaks down and becomes more whimsical for a moment before it reprises the main riff. However it’s the delicate piano part that closes the song that steals the show. Restrained, beautiful and haunting, it’s the flower to be found amongst the crushing metal that surrounds it.
It’s only on the gargantuan closing track Revelation: The Will To Nothingness that the band seem in danger of disappearing into a 20 minute dirge of self-indulgence. There are moments when it borders on genius; the artful use of samples, the hypnotic riffing, and the guitar solos that add flavour rather than extravagance. Unfortunately, it’s also perhaps the only time that Obelyskkh appear to be a little unfocused and it’s fair to say that only the epically stoned will make it through Revelation entirely unscathed. That said, it’s testament to the band’s willingness to attempt the ridiculous and fully embrace the prog elements of their music.