Unburied (United States Of America, Virginia)/Seeking Obscure – Split

Ah, yes, Metalbolic Records, the label that specializes in bands with names that are already taken, bizarrely low CD prices, and a roster of the most incestuous band relations this side of the LLN. One of the label’s first releases was this split between Virginian brutal death metallers Unburied, finally on CD after twelve years previous festering in the tape-trading underground, and one-man death metal project Seeking Obscure out of Wyoming, with a considerably more recent history, dating back only to late 2005. Each artist contributes four tracks each; four originals for Unburied, and three originals plus a Cancer cover for Seeking Obscure. While the amount of material is on the slim side, with this CD only clocking in at just over twenty five minutes, there’s more than enough real content to sate most death metal hounds out there today.

Unburied sounds like one of those bedroom brutal death metal bands that you hear a lot lately, only with the ability to play their instruments and write songs. It has that similarly overblown production style, with a really brackish, noisy crash cymbal sound (machine supplied, of course) and an overly distorted, in-your-face guitar tone, piped through a clearly digital recording device and with the volume jacked up to around +6 Db. It’s weird to hear such unprofessional music made so… well, professional, I guess. Because once you get past that bedroom sound and aesthetic, the writing of the music is actually pretty professional, with a lot of intricacy to the riffs and rhythms and variation to the songs. Buried below the belching vocals are riffs that remind me a lot of Cryptopsy’s ‘Blasphemy Made Flesh’, particularly when combined with the very noticeable, popping bass. Some modern edges are present; there’s a full-on slam riff at the beginning of ‘Human Butchery’, and the dual vocals are of a very new school nature, but the overall delivery is right around ’94, and there’s not a really overtly ‘brutal’ sound. Same goes with the technical performances: capable, but not flashy.

While the overall sound and delivery is much more Mortician than anything else, the music is far more multidimensional than that. The band emphasizes a lot of melodramatically sinister tremolo riffing of early Cryptopsy combining with the overdriven drum machine to result in music that seems driven into a murderous frenzy. Everything is overly loud, noisy, and grotesquely distorted to an unbelievable degree. It never gets incoherent musically, but sonically, maybe just a bit. I think the drum machine is bizarre and awkwardly incorporated; above and beyond the really noisy and dirty samples used (pretty common in cheaper drum machines), the programming is pretty clearly that of people creating drums simply to support guitar riffs rather than as a relevant piece itself. Nonetheless, it is riff-based music, and those riffs are pretty consistently good. While the overall package of the band is somewhat unrefined, there is a core of strong, savage songwriting that promises much for the future.

Seeking Obscure, on the other hand, reflects the sound of a lot of those mid-’90s DM bands that popped up right around when the very last of thrash influence being a typical part of DM died away. Most of it is midpaced, and reminds me a fair bit of mid-era Obituary; it sort of forcibly eschews thrashiness for an extra bit of complexity and groove in the song structures and concepts. The tracks on Seeking Obscure’s side are quite ambitious; there’s a lot of variation, and even though a lot of the riffs are rather Celtic Frost inspired, they still get twisted ever so slightly in a Morbid Angel fashion to be made more exciting. The riffs aren’t really deliberately convoluted ala Suffocation, but they are sort of labyrinthine, with long sequences of chord phrases that, while somewhat familiar, are taken to another level in length and complexity to create a strange, almost epic sound.

This band uses a drum machine as well; one not as raw as that found on Unburied’s side, and better programmed, but still rather distracting. Vocals also are rather strange, as they’re really just spoken word run through a moderate level of distortion. They don’t really sound BAD, but some forcefulness would be nice. The production is audible, but a bit blunt in the guitar department, at least until the strange, meandering leads burst in, like a somewhat more conventional Trey Azagthoth. The Cancer cover fits in with the rest of the material weirdly well; if you didn’t tell me it was a cover (not being very well versed in Cancer myself), I wouldn’t have probably noticed very much of a difference. It’s a bit thrashier when you examine it, but otherwise complements the other three tracks without a fuss. Seeking Obscure is probably the more professional and established of the two artists on this split, and is perhaps a bit stronger than Unburied; it’s just more coherent in addition to being a more genuinely pleasing listen, minus all the aesthetic insanity of the other.

Neither of these artists redefine death metal, but they are an interesting peek into the mid-’90s death metal style that is somewhat forgotten when everything boils down to ‘Slowly We Rot’ or ‘Epitaph’. You should know what you expect when you get into it; it’s not the ultra-technical, polished death metal of today, nor is it the thrashy, occult death metal of the late ’80s; it’s somewhere in between, when death metal was just finding its completely independent voice and letting out its first few decayed croaks. They’re a bit awkward, yeah, but whose first words weren’t? An interesting split that promises good things for the future.

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~ by noktorn on October 26, 2007.

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