Obtest - Gyvybės Medis review
|Release date:||April 2008|
04. Gyvybės Medis
05. Sakalo Vaikai
07. Geležinis Vilkas
08. Tai Ne Pabaiga
If, like me, you're getting bored with the constant stream of second-rate folk metal albums produced by lazy musicians jumping on the viking bandwagon, Obtest is here to save your day! Founded in 1992 deep in the dark woods of Lithuania, Obtest evolved through the years from a pure pagan black metal outfit into a quite upbeat pagan/folk entity."Gyvybès Medis" (Tree of Life) is their fourth full-length, the one which hopefully will open the gates of recognition before them.
"Gyvybès Medis" (Tree of Life) is not a real folk metal album per se. The band's music mostly tends towards fast heavy metal, with strong thrash and power metal influences, and still with this pagan touch which sometimes resurfaces at full speed but mostly remains in the background, only to add a welcome epic feel to the songs. The band has now completely shaken off the black metal influences, which were already almost gone on their previous release. The only thing which can still remind of their glorious past is a couple of devastating blastbeats.
Unlike a lot of folk metal bands which rely on the use of non-metal instruments to disguise their relative lack of inspiration (I won't name anyone), Obtest successfully keep the old guitar/bass/drums formula. Actually, although this album is not very complex or multi-layered, although the riffs and structures and rather simple, the songwriting is so brilliant that it seems to be working on many levels, and so the album never gets boring even after repeated listens, in spite of its lack of variation. The guitar work is the major standout point here, with a lot of great, epic, thrashy, memorable riffs and above all a truckload of amazing solos - really, I'm not exaggerating, the solos ARE impressive on this album, there's a lot of them and they just fit. Despite its simplicity, it is obvious that the conception of this album required three long years of hard work.
Since the production is excellent for that type of record and the lyrics in Lithuanian (translations available on their webiste) about Lithuanian legends add a new side to the epic quality of this release, there's not much to say against "Gyvybès Medis". The grimmest metalheads may be annoyed by the upbeat atmospheres, but I defy anyone to find a cheesy passage here (except on the closing track, "Ikaitai", which sounds like a mix between Satriani and the Melrose Place music). Some might be turned off by the very "special" vocals of Baalberith - not really screamed, not really sung, rather monotonous and with a strong punk feel - but once you get used to them, you find yourself taken away in breathtakingly epic soundscapes, into a whirlwind of catchiness and fine melodies.
This is typically the kind of album that could appeal to fans of folk, heavy and thrash, or simply to people who really enjoy epic atmospheres. To sum up, although there's nothing really new here, the sheer quality of the songs and the musicianship make it my favourite folk metal album of 2008 so far.
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