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Album Reviews : Hybrid Nightmares – Obelisk

By on March 31, 2019

Hybrid Nightmares, an extreme progressive metal act from Melbourne, are due to release their new EP Obelisk in April this year, hot off the heels of touring alongside heavyweights such as Anaal Nathrakh and Watain. A follow up to 2017’s Almagest, Obelisk sees the band moving from strength to strength, pushing their sound to new places and delivering a crushingly heavy slab of black-tinged prog metal. This album is a rarity, in that it has no weak tracks (perhaps easier to achieve when there’s only five) with each track giving the sense that it has been deliberately placed to shape the feel of the EP as a whole package. The production values are strong across the board, with all instruments clearly audible and a particularly nice distorted guitar tone on both the rhythm and the leads. Atmosphere is the name of the game with Obelisk and the timbral elements of each track work to develop and support the feel and theme evoked.

‘Star Fortress’, the pre-release single from Obelisk, opens things up an eerie spoken-word passage over a haunting clean riff. Once the song properly kicks in, two elements immediately grab my ear; the delicious lead guitar tone cements itself as a key element of Obelisk‘s sound while the stellar drumming immediately pushes the song forward. Everything about this song is on point; the drums alternate between furious blast beats and more sedate grooves, allowing room for the vocal rhythms to lock in. Indeed, the vocals are a standout across the entire EP, being both heavy, intense, and hypnotically catchy; singer Loki’s clear diction emphases the rhythmic elements of the vocal lines that interact well with the sense of rhythm established by the other instruments, to the point where you can almost ‘sing along’ to the unpitched vocals as the melodic aspects of the lead guitars transfer into the vocal line.

There’s a great deal of variety across only five songs; the opening of ‘Drink of the Waters’ feels like a Devin Townsend meets black metal moment while the hypnotic droning vocals in the bridge of the song are one of the more unique uses of folk-style vocals that I’ve heard in recent extreme metal, almost recalling the sound of a didjeridu at points. The opening riff to ‘Ex Mortis’ reminds me strongly of Psycroptic‘s ‘As the Kingdom Drowns’ before smoothly flowing into a black metal tremolo-picked riff, never easing up on the intensity. ‘Portals’ is perhaps the intense climax of the album, building well as a song to an infectiously-catchy lead guitar counter melody in the chorus and a groovy-yet-dissonant bridge section that provides new harmonic flavour at just the right moment. ‘The Mystic’ is another well-written and well-balanced song that closes out the album well. The album’s overall structure deserves a great deal of praise and has clearly been given a great deal of thought; each song is distinct in its musical identity as a piece of music without the individual pieces undermining the coherence of the album as a whole.

Perhaps my only complaint with Obelisk is that I want more! The five tracks here are stellar examples of extreme progressive metal, demonstrating that Hybrid Nightmares are exactly the kind of Australian band worthy of support billing for international bands such as Anaal Nathrakh and Watain. I’m very much looking forward to what comes next as the band further codifies their variety of influences into a distinctly personal sound.

Band: Hybrid Nightmares
Album: Obelisk
Year: 2019
Genre: Progressive Extreme Metal
Label: Independent
Origin: Australia
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About

Ben is a metalhead originally from Sydney, who has now moved to Hobart to pursue a PhD in Australian extreme metal. When not studying, writing about or playing metal, he can be found playing video games, browsing Reddit, knitting, fending off his cat or helping out at his local church.