Review: Obake – S/T

Obake means “a thing that changes” in Japanese, although its definition also extends to signify a  “ghost of a deceased human being”. Both capture the mercuriality of this full-length – Obake refuse to establish a “core” sound, with the album continuously throwing entirely fresh shapes right up until its closing moments. Their sound writhes from blackened, metallic grooves into rather angelic stretches of improvisation, through to ethereal dronescapes and onward into dirty noise eruptions. And while this allows the band to stay true to their name, it does mean that the record is constantly slipping through the listener’s fingers. It’s difficult to know what to make of Obake once you’ve stumbled out the other side – although it covers a lot of ground, its ever-changing nature means that the listener’s quest for discovery is eternally an unfulfilled one. What exactly is Obake?

That’s not necessarily a criticism. Although some may find frustration in snatching at sounds just as they evaporate and re-form into something entirely different, others will delight in the bewilderment of being to-and-fro’d between sonic territories. Indeed, vocalist Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari seems to relish the chance to be anything he pleases and, ultimately, nothing in particular; he darts from death growls to excitable yelps that bring Mike Patton to mind, while occasionally allowing his operatic side to surface in sumptuous vibrato bellows.

As for the band on the whole, they adopt their most enticing forms during the opening and closing stages. “Human Genome Project” kicks the whole thing off with the album’s most ferocious riff, with bass slides rising and falling within it like a revved engine. “Dog Star Ritual” continues the theme, with Fornasari already firmly establishing his quirky, schizo instability through his multiple vocal personalities. Meanwhile, “Grandmother Spider” takes the album to its close on gloomy guitar drones, which surge into the soundscape like sharp breezes rushing through dark, labyrinthine caves. Resolution is implied, but never really reached – most appropriate for an album that forever feels in transition, leaving its retrospective imprint as an indecipherable blur of mystique, as a withheld truth.