This year, I resolve to listen to more death metal. And what better way to start this new year with the new act, Oblivion. Oblivion has a very interesting make up of players, including world-renowned orchestral composer Nick Vasallo as frontman, PhD in mathematics candidate Victor Dods on guitar, and Ben frickin' Orum (formerly of All Shall Perish) on bass. Seems like a pretty eclectic group of individuals to make death metal of all things. So how exactly does their first, self-released album, Called To Rise, stand up with listeners?
Called To Rise has already garnered quite a bit of positive feedback from those who have reviewd it already, and for good reason. They're all quite right; Called To Rise is insanely good death metal. It’s actually kind of difficult to classify it in terms of subgenre, which also makes it that much better to listen. It’s kind of post-blackened-tech-death metal, but I guess it’s easier to classify it as death metal. It might be hard to actually imagine tech to go well with post metal, but it does work quite well on Called To Rise. You get everything you need out from a great death metal album; ripping guitars, swift drums to compliment, and intense vocals to charge. I personally love the idea of the band’s unlikely backgrounds coming together to make something brutal as Called To Rise. And the thing that takes Oblivion to the next step involves Vasallo’s formal training in music composition.
Certainly the metal on Called To Rise is great, but there are a couple of tracks you probably wouldn’t expect to see in a death metal album. About midway through, we get “Canon 1 in E Minor” which is literally a blackened-electric guitar musical canon. And for someone like me who has actually studied music like a dork, this was just too cool. Even more awesome was the 2-part string orchestra piece entitled “Shred" that come as bonus tracks. Everything about it is so metal; the stringed instruments are doing their equivalent of double-picking, quick runs and sweeps. All it needed was some percussion section doing an orchestral blast beat of some kind to complete the full picture. It’s different from other instances of black/symphonic metal bands that employ orchestras to play along with the band. Although those are awesome too, “Shred” actually has the orchestra BEING the metal, making it the amalgam of and metal and classical music. There’s no doubt it'll probably be one of the coolest and unexpected experiences you could ever get with a death metal album.
Oblivion has the potential to be death metal’s next rising act. Taking the classical music approach to an already virtuosic form of music could be the next new and great thing for the death metal world. Called To Rise is definitely a promising debut for the new band, especially so early in the new year. But I think it would be safe to say that Called To Rise is the first, must-own album of 2013.