Melancholy is a term that emerged and evolved during the 90s, when the forefathers of grief and shadow set monolithic, grey, covered by moss pillars in misty surroundings, that every band since then (including the forefathers themselves) worship and rely on. Their seeds grew up and prospered, filling Northern European melodic death and doom genres with countless bands, expressing grief and esoterism via the rough sculpture of heaviness.
However, after two decades of constant creation, should we consider this over-populated field as still fertile? Or is the “creation” itself a rather obscure term, placing repetition in the middle and leaving true inspiration in another time and space reality? In simpler and not pretentiously complex words, the question that occupies our mind could be: “Are there good melodic death/doom bands out there?” Let’s try to find out what is the case with Nailed To Obscurity.
The band, originating from Esens, Germany, recently released their fourth album, “Black Frost”, which is the first effort under a major and well-known label like Nuclear Blast. Under the guidance of the two main songwriters, guitarists and founding members Jan-Ole Lamberti and Volker Dieken, Nailed To Obscurity are apparently influenced by bands like Opeth, Katatonia and Paradise Lost. Over time, they have left behind the rather heavier sound of their first record (“Abyss”, 2007), enriching their compositions with atmospheric, delicate parts.
“Black Frost” develops further this path with seven slow-to-mid tempo songs that showcase the band’s preference for a greyish, atmospheric musical environment rather than true death heaviness. Hence, emphasis has been placed on tranquil, slow patterns which are admittedly well-crafted and support effectively the lyrical concepts of exclusion, loneliness and grief. “Heavy” guitar parts unveil the band’s direction to melodiousness, having the tendency of being technical or progressive in certain occasions and not being doomy at all. Orchestrations are balanced, indicating Nailed To Obscurity’s progress in songwriting and hard work that has been done in even the slightest detail. The outcome is an album that sounds silky, tranquil and frost, like its title.
However, the band couldn’t create the atmosphere it desired, had it not been for the warm, deep Raimund Ennenga’s voice. His death vocals remain expressive and not extremely harsh, thus matching completely with Nailed To Obscurity’s sound. Clean vocals (luckily improved compared to the previous album) are used extensively; the band now has confidence in experimenting with them, since “Resonance” is the first song with exclusively clean vocals.
Regarding songwriting, the peak of the album may be the imperceptibly post-like “Aberrant Host”, or the dynamic and equally melodic “Tears of the Eyeless”. “Feardom” possibly “steals” the “hit-of-the-album” title from the homonymous song, while “Cipher” is easily distinguishable due to its structure and adventurous attitude (pay attention to the splendid guitar intro).
However, no matter how much the band have improved their composing ability, “Black Frost” sounds like many albums I have listened to, suffering from lack of originality, a drawback evident in the three previous albums as well. Therefore, I doubt that it will endure over time. Nailed To Obscurity have indeed progressed, but still there is strong methexis with their influences, that prevents them from developing a sound that would be exclusively their own. I wouldn’t mind if “Black Frost” was their first or second effort (besides, every band has influences); but since it’s their fourth album, we have an issue here. It’s obvious that the band take their time, enjoying creativity, without hurrying. This might be good for them, but not necessarily for the fans. I wish they will make the expected step next time; it would be a pity in case this will not happen, since the talent exists.