I would like to thank Bay Area cult Ordo Obsidium for finally slapping me out of my writer’s block, a paralyzing sense of laziness and fear that has been plaguing me for the past two weeks. “Orbis Tertius”, their impressive debut, was exactly what I needed.
Refreshingly absent from all forms of social media, not much is known about the mysterious Ordo Obsidium, lurking behind 2011’s avant-garde black metal pack until the October 10th release of “Orbis Tertius” on Eisenwald Tonschmiede. Surprise! Your new obsession is here.
The five tracks that make up “Orbis Tertius” are masterfully crafted, and thoughtfully sequenced. ‘Nequaquam Vacuum,’ the twelve-minute opener, is the first segment of your journey beyond the stars, and Ordo Obsidium’s ode to tradition. There is nothing unfamiliar about the instrumentation: tremolo-heavy and light on bass, solid drumming, and standard black metal riffing. No element is overpowering. Incitatus’s vocals are spot on, covering the valley of death between orthodox BM and that desolate shrieking particular to DSBM. Balan’s guitar work invokes a haunting, atmospheric state, but has an edge sharp enough to pierce through Darkspace territory.
A note on production: “Orbis Tertius” has achieved the tricky balance between trve raw shittiness and overly polished falseness. The recording quality falls right in the middle, like a blotting brush was swept across its face a few times and left at that. Not too gritty, but not too Metallica.
‘Into the Gates of Madness’ immediately brought Nokturnal Mortum’s stellar ‘Lunar Poetry’ (proving how a band can make dick moves and still produce excellent music) to mind. My favorite track off the album, moody with shifting planes of hypnotizing riffs. Ordo Obsidium really succeed in drawing subtly from rich melodic lines without shoving them down your throat. A slowed-down acoustic passage carries TASTEFUL USE OF SYNTH (bands: if you use synth, it has to be tasteful) before launching back into a dark, swampy frenzy.
‘Orbis Tertius’ takes place in the downtrodden funeral parlor of metal. The shortest track on “Orbis Tertius”, and the least exciting, but doom fans will probably be all over that shit.
‘Emptiness Under the Moon’ is another favorite. Nine and a half sprawling minutes of freezing melancholy that shoot straight for the heart. Black metal music is often written using jarring, dissident chords, but Ordo Obsidium don’t write, they compose. In a soundscape that can appropriately be compared to Hate Forest’s ‘Desert of Ice,’ ‘Emptiness Under the Moon’ is beautifully bleak.
Closer ‘By His Unflinching Hand’ brings “Orbis Tertius” to full circle, clocking in at around the same length as ‘Nequaquam Vacuum.’ A sludgy, doomy piece that writhes and crawls its way through mournful guitars until it meets its acoustic end. Like Ulver’s ‘Bergtatt’, which breaks into silence before chilling you with some of the most classical, delicate guitar work featured on any black metal album. “Orbis Tertius” finally leaves you gasping for breath somewhere along San Francisco Bay.
With the dignified sorrow of Lunar Aurora, and the traditional rawness of Forest, Ordo Obsidium has arrived at this year’s black metal party, and they brought a keg. I highly suggest tapping it.