OBSCURE: Darkness Must Prevail
Release year: 2019
Label: Xtreem Music
Obscure from Spain certainly have a fitting name – though formed already in the late 80’s, the band have never been more than the footnote of a footnote in the annals of death metal history. And the reason is quite obvious, too: they released only a couple of demos before throwing in the towel in the mid-90’s.
But, like a big amount of other acts, some years ago they decided to give it another go. However, unlike some acts, with more than one original member; looking at the line-up info on The Metal Archives, it seems like everyone except for vocalist Xavier Beleth was part of the band during their initial run.
And now, a quarter of a century after first splitting up: here’s Obscure’s debut album. I don’t think you can say the world was waiting with bated breath, but in case someone was: was it worth the wait?
Well, let’s put it this way: if you hoped for some kind of milestone or genre redefining album, don’t bother. I don’t know why you’d expect that, but some people have all kinds of weird ideas. On the other hand, if your hopes were more realistic and all you wanted was some solid death metal… well, that’s exactly what Darkness Must Prevail delivers.
To be sure, there’s absolutely nothing original in Obscure’s sound. Everything you hear on the album has been done before, a thousand times. There are considerable amounts of especially Bolt Thrower and Benediction in the mix here, as well as numerous other early 90’s acts, and I guess it won’t come as a surprise that Obscure do not do one over the legends. This is not an album that takes cues from the classics and improves on them; rather than leading, it follows.
But, that being said, when it comes to Bolt Thrower style, mid-tempo leaning, riff-driven heavy death metal, Obscure have clearly done their homework, because a lot of the time they nail it. Just check out the heavy, rhythmic rolling riffs of closing track Blessing Of Malignancy (a re-recorded demo track) or the mid-tempo thrash plodding rhythm and tungsten riffing of After Life: originality may be an unknown word for Obscure, but luckily quality isn’t.
I guess the major questions one could (and maybe even should) ask any act that makes a comeback 25 years later, are: was it worth it? Do you have anything worthwhile to contribute, or are you just a bunch of middle-aged has-beens trying to re-enact the glory days of youth? Is there any reason why anyone into death metal should give a flying fuck about you in 2020?
And, happily for Obscure, the answers are: yes. Yes, they do have. Yes. Because aside from the glaring, obvious and utter lack of any kind of originality, there are a lot of good things going on on Darkness Must Prevail. Solid production and sound, tight riffage and nice songs, adequate instrumentation and decent guttural vocals, all of these make the debut album of Obscure worth at least a few listens.
Darkness Must Prevail is not a classic to be, but it’s one of those solid mid-tier albums which probably will never garner the amount of support or buzz it’d deserve. Give it a spin or two and see if you don’t agree with me.