Thursday, November 6, 2008

Obtest - Gyvybës Medis (2008)

The pride of Lithuanian pagan metal returns for their fourth album, a monstrous effort which is not only their magnum opus, but the best straight folk metal album I've heard this year. This is a huge leap for the band, their previous albums weren't even remotely this professional and memorable, and it marks their transition to the Osmose Productions roster, who evidently agree upon the talent of the band in this new direction.

Obtest has evolved from blacker roots into what I can only describe as pagan/folk speed metal. The riffs involve fast, charging riffs endowed with catchy melodies and the native lyrics of Baalberith. "Apeigos" starts things right with its hypnotic leads and an amazing melody beneath the chorus. "Vedlys" features another fast paced, triumphant sounding melody with pagan gang vocals and a ripping bridge section. "Sviesa" picks up things even more with a pure, classic speed metal intro and then some swelling charge riffs over the great vocals. The title track is the first to slow it down a little, another engaging melody engraves the song immediately into memory. "Sakalo Vaikai" gives the impression of melodic power metal throughout, but the vocals bring it back to Obtest. The rest of the songs are quite fast as well, except the closer "Ikaitai" which is glorious and melodic but more of a driving mid pace.

The style here really helps Obtest stand out from the ever crowding pagan/folk metal scene. They've got a vibrant and uplifting style to them which never treads on the ground the usual suspects (Finntroll, Thyrfing, Moonsorrow, etc) have already tread. Blazing and victorious, the band never requires an excess of complexity to their music because what they compose is simple and extremely catchy. The production of the album is fantastic, nothing over the top but you can clearly pick out everything you'd like to hear. It's a shame I have yet to translate the lyrics, but I'd love to read them, and hope they'll be as endearing as the rest of the album.

Gyvybës Medis is a superb and original folk metal album which has excited me amidst a sea of stale, samey sounding albums which rely on flighty, silly folk nuance rather than truly embracing an ethnic feel and raging with it. Obtest succeed with flying colors and have earned a spot atop the heap of pagan metal hopefuls. Cannot wait to hear what they do next, as this is a favorite for me this year!

Verdict: Epic Win [9.5/10]

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