Barcelona-based experimental metal outfit Obsidian Kingdom debuted their intricate, genre-bending prowess with Mantiis back in 2012. Woven with fibers from a bundle of influences, Obsidian Kingdom crafted a tapestry. Their feat rolled smoothly in tonal shifts from corner-to-corner, its seams stitched flawlessly. A Year With No Summer (AYWNS) is entirely different. Gone are the obvious metal influences and instead, new plies wind a rope of balmy atmosphere.
AYWNS’s post-apocalyptic story of empty city streets and silent white skies is reflected in its instrumentation. Bass and drums are forefronts for most tracks; keyboards and guitar blend in the skyline. Album opener “A Year With No Summer” embodies rock influences as electronic keys fissure through the song’s foundation. Its catchy chorus cracks from a wailing guitar with translucent vocals floating beyond the upbeat backdrop. Soaked in paranoia, the album’s lyrics voice the lonely and, at times, intense tones pouring from the instruments. “The Kandinsky Group” croaks with whispering tongues. Writhing synths meld a wall of sinister brick and crumble into a funk-style guitar. Delusions of conspiracy shout from the throat of those subjugated as the bellowing climaxes into a head banging hook. It’s one of few moments which glimmers and diffuses the pressure built by the aftermath of the cataclysmic event.
There are passages which detract from AYWNS’s fluidity, however. The spoken word metaphor leading the instrumental interlude “10th April” is a bit awkward. Vocals narrate similarities of smashing glass resounding on vacant sidewalks to that of a human; some shatter and others are glazed over or transparent. The idea intrigues, but its delivery teeters on hilarity as listeners are asked if they think of themselves as windows. Electronic drum beats backing somber strings save the song, though. It achieves an emotional crescendo carried by a depressed guitar and fades into “Darkness”, which harbors a bouncing, almost poppy riff. The transition is coherent, but the track stagnates from repetitive lyrics and a comfortable groove which seldom shifts.
As the year with summer-less skies remain a soulless gray, Obsidian Kingdom finds resolution in “Away/Absent”. The birth of a new adult life after the catastrophe remains trivial. Despite restarting, identical addictions distract from a sense of progress. A mercurial decision abandons the hope of returning to a lost lifestyle and from this, troubles consumed by the swelling tides, there is liberation. It’s a slow sipping icy cocktail. Numbing the nerves with eyes closed under a scorching sun, it epitomizes a marooned tropical paradise in a year with no summer.
Score: 8.0 / 10.0
Listen to “Black Swan” above; purchase A Year With No Summer here.