Ever listened to an album for the first time and gotten that rush of fizzing sparks up and down your spine? When I discovered Obsequiae’s 2011 debut Suspended in the Brume of Eos [after reading their brilliant interview with Invisible Oranges], I’m fairly sure my mind went blank as I heard what I had been waiting for my entire life: something that existed in the infinitesimal overlap of metal and the middle ages. Suspended has been in constant rotation ever since that first listen and I’ve been anticipating more work from them, curious about where they would take their sound. Thankfully, their follow-up, Aria of Vernal Tombs, was worth the wait.
Hit “play” and suddenly you find yourself standing in a luxuriant primeval forest, the notes of a harp piercing the dark canopy with golden light. It blends effortlessly into the second track, which is instantly catchy with hypnotic motifs so good you keep rewinding the song to avoid its end.
Aria of Vernal Tombs intersperses murky, rich melodies with somber solos by harpist Vincente La Camera Mariño. These intermissions are numerous, but never tiresome; they act as the gilt illumination would in a Book of Hours, ornamenting and enriching the experience. “Anlace and Heart” and “Orphic Rites of the Mystic” emerge as standouts — the former for its tremendously luminous opening riff, and the latter for the faint choir that floats in during its final minute. That’s how you finish an album.
The thickly layered instrumentation on this album is a bit more blurred around the edges than the previous release, which I find to be really nice — especially on the vocals. It gives a vast, textured quality to the album that you feel like you can almost dig your fingers into. You get the sense that the band approached the album as a careful whole rather than on a song by song basis — after listening to it through you’re left with a full and satisfying impression, like they’ve just woven you your very own unicorn tapestry.
Dark, florid metal is not an easy genre to navigate — it’s often wrought with clichés or the kind of heavy-handed shit you love at the beginning of the album and loathe by the fourth song. Obsequiae falls victim to none of these. It’s their perfect contrast between the rasping vocals and the lilting, traveling harmonies that makes Aria of Vernal Tombs a shimmering success.