This CD is further proof of how a lot of the most interesting and idiosyncratic underground metal of the early 2000s has come not on the big, established independents like Metal Blade or Nuclear Blast, but on smaller, more risk-taking labels -- in this case, Brazil's tiny Lofty Storm. Osculum Obscenum, also from Brazil, weigh in here with a half-hour of depraved, grindcore-influenced black metal (or vice versa) that, while not completely groundbreaking, still blows most of the bigger black metal bands' recent releases out of the water in terms of sheer intensity. Recording-wise, this album wisely steers clear of the computerized, over-produced approach favored by so many supposedly "extreme" metal bands in this era, yet without resorting to the ultra-lo-fi, one-microphone-and-a-four-track method that lies at the other end of the spectrum, which can be just as distracting. The drums are crisp and well-defined without sounding synthetic, while the guitar and bass come together to form a fuzzed-out, ever-so-slightly industrial-tinged wall of distortion. Song-wise, these are concise, mostly three-minute-or-less assaults that are built around blastbeat drumming and topped off with evil, rasping vocals. The guitar riffs often hint at older Scandinavian black metal bands (such as Mayhem), but are delivered with a direct, punk-inspired attack that really works well. Also of note are the high-pitched, King Diamond-like screams that appear out of nowhere on the seventh track, "Caligula Imperium," adding to the overall crazed mood of the album. Lyrically, this album is admittedly kind of ridiculous, offering a weird mishmash of themes ranging from sexual perversion ("Prince Albert) to religious blasphemy ("Jesus Gay") to satanism ("Szandor [Into My Heart and My Vein]," which is ironic, because its namesake, Anton Szandor LaVey, couldn't stand metal). However, no one is going to buy (or not buy) this album based on its lyrics, as you can rarely understand them anyway. What matters is whether the music delivers, and it mostly does here, with a combination of heaviness and borderline-mentally ill heavy metal spirit that will likely appeal to fans of such deranged bands as Sadistik Exekution, Anaal Nathrakh, Impaled Nazarene, and older Mayhem.
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