The Grand Crescendo
Released 29 Sep 2023
9.00
Exotic
Mixed vocals

Obsidian Tide – The Grand Crescendo: a grand crescendo indeed

2023 has proven to be a finger-lickable year for progmetal enthusiasts, with standout releases from established acts like Ne Obliviscaris, Haken, and TesseracT already dominating numerous AOTY lists. But for me, another strong contender could definitely come from a lesser-known corner.

With the release of Pilars of Creation in 2019, Obsidian Tide stormed the scene and overall, that debut was welcomed by about everyone who graced ears upon it. Rightfully so, as I already mentioned in my review for that album. The technical ability on display was unmistakable. My gripe with the album came with its emotional middleground, as I called it then. I did not know what to feel from it. That sentiment remained, even as I was drawn to the album again and again.

But, here we are. A few weeks ago I started listening to The Grand Crescendo, Obsidian Tide's sophomore. If I'm perfectly honest, my initial impression left me less than enthralled. While all the pieces of their brand of Progressive Death Metal were in place, the puzzle didn't immediately click. As some of you know, I've had the exact same happen when listening to my, now, favorite albums for the first time. Surely, I had to just push through, given how much I came to love their debut. Some albums simply demand your time.

There's no track on The Grand Crescendo that spans less than 8 minutes, so venturing into the album might seem a bit daunting. But, contrarely, I often find myself wanting to listen to it again and again. At first unimpressed, now completely in love. It's not a challenging listen in any way, the trio doesn't subvert your expectations with every twist and turn. I imagine some might dismiss this album based on the fact that it could feel quite predictable, exactly why I was at first unimpressed. But honestly, let me tell you: that is no problem at all. Obsidian Tide carefully traded this unpredictability for a much more focused style. This is a band that now dares to take their time to tell their unique story. Only if you accept that, the beauty will reveal itself.

I vaguely remember the clean vocals in opener "Clandestine Calamities" as annoying. But, where I first thought the pronunciation of some of these words were deficiencies, I have since learned to embrace these moments, ultimately regarding them as exquisitely beautiful and authentic. These are three dudes from Israel doing what they love, that becomes extremely palpable throughout listening to this behemoth. This is more than just a musical endeavor; it's a labor of love. Going into this with the mindset of hearing something akin to Tool or Opeth isn't going to cut it anymore. For their debut, sure, but this sophomore demands more respect for the cumulation of talent that is Obsidian Tide.

Most tracks on this album only really open up in the second half, as exemplified early on by "Beyond". Even though this track exhibits some of the most robust guitar work in its first segment, it's all just a meticulous setup for what's to come. And they do this often, so again, you will need to have patience. But, it's because they take their time, that they create the space for grandeur.

Songs are often contrasting between harsh and clean vocals and you never know in what way a song will open up. The harses give purpose to the cleans and vice versa. For Obsidian Tide, a big closing to a song doesn't always mean to go all-in with the harshes and heavy guitars. Often it's the playing with these contrasts that make it feel large. Like in the second half of "The Invasion on Paradise", where they briefly switch things up rhythmically and go for an acoustic approach, almost in a Pink Floyd-esque way. Obsidian Tide has masterfully honed this technique: creating a monumental atmosphere through nuanced subtleties, creating a big feeling by doing small things.
Certainly, there are tracks that aim to tower over the listener, such as "HALO CRVSHER" with its wicked flute solos. These Middle Eastern influences permeate the album and stand as a testament to Obsidian Tide's well-defined identity. They play with these influences in the most authentic way, it's second nature to them. Much like with Orphaned Land and even Ne Obliviscaris, these outlandish moments help to set them apart from the pack. Admittedly, I found that in the case of Ne Obliviscaris' latest release, these influences bordered on the gimmicky. But, this is never the case with Obsidian Tide. Just like on Pilars of Creation, their balancing act is perfectly on point here.

"The Undying Flames" opens up as a slow acoustic track, until the bass builds up the tension towards a heavy release of harsh vocals immediately contrasted by interesting rhythms and clean vocals. But these are, again, just setting the stage for what's to come. Soon everything turns into a feverish instrumental snake-dance, reaffirming that this trinity astutely plays to their strengths, allowing each moving part of this musical machinery to shine at precisely the right moment.
The album's longest and penultimate track, "The Fields of Reeds," commences with evocative guitar work that persists from start to finish. It features about every contrast you need to find closure after listening to the album as a whole: an emotional clean vocal performance and spine-chilling middle eastern influences that ease us into darker harsh whispers. It's the epic for an album full of epics. Why the band then chose to conclude the album with an almost three-minute interlude, would be the question. While it may nod to the aforementioned full track, I personally think it doesn't add anything of substance. Sometimes I let it play out, most of the times I don't.

With The Grand Crescendo, Obsidian Tide has achieved precisely what I had hoped they would: evoking profound emotions, exercising patience and crafting something distinctly their own. The Grand Crescendo is exactly that—a grand crescendo. If we liken the trajectory of this band's career to a song, then the release of this album should stand as the climactic crescendo. If you're willing to take the time, then submerge yourself into this album, I'm convinced this album will stand for years to come.

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