Written by John Angel
Orecus – The Obliterationist
Death metal from Sweden
Released via Violent Groove
March 12th, 2021
How do you take your death metal? Black like coffee? Rotten to the ‘core like an apple for a trash panda? Or maybe you want it drowned in cavernous reverb? Death metal comes in as many varieties as Starbucks repackages of sugar and caffeine in water. Today I’ll be exploring a more modern style of death metal through the lens of Orecus and their new record, The Obliterationist.
Made up of guitarists Elias Ryen-Rafstedt and Francis Larrson, bassist Martin Maxe, and vocalist Phillip Grüning, Swedish band Orecus was originally founded in 2011, went on hiatus sometime after their 2016 EP, then relaunched in 2020. The Obliterationist, the group’s debut full length, represents a giant leap in the band’s output and abilities over their 2016 EP Conclusion. Sporting better riffs, better songs, and better production than its predecessor, this record sits firmly on the modern side of the current OSDM/modern divide in the death metal world. As much as the well-documented OSDM (old-school death metal for anyone afraid to ask) movement continues to thrive, and as much as Hidden History of the Human Race fuckin’ rips, I prefer a cleaner production with more contemporary influences in my death metal. Thus it’s only natural that The Obliterationist spoke to my cold, black heart.
My favorite thing about this band and album is how I can hear the myriad influences they draw upon and just about every metallic sub-genre is represented. You’ve got your black metal-style tremolo picking and blast beat marriage on the title track, prog-y synth lines on “Unborn, Reborn”, a super djent-y riff straight from 2010 on “Blodvite”, and elements of every other genre modifier you can shake a stick at! On “Extinct”, the closing track, there’s a remarkable couple of minutes near the halfway point where we encounter a rhythmically complex, Meshuggah-esque section, immediately followed by glorious melodeath material, then a drop into a tasty section dripping with groove defined by 3-against-4 interplay between the ride cymbal and chugging guitars. Orecus has done a wonderful job of distilling all the many disparate elements in the death metal and death metal-adjacent worlds into a cohesive whole that really bludgeons your ears in the best of ways.
One of the things that really jumps out at me is the guitar toan. Oh it’s spelled tone? You mean the internet lied to me?? My world is shattered… Anyway, the guitars on this record sound absolutely nasty! It’s a real testament to the glory of dialing the gain back and sculpting out a lot of the bass frequencies. I just love that buzzsaw-like sound this produces on guitars and I’m sure it helps the mixing engineer when they don’t have to fit bass-y guitars in a low end already dense with bass and kick drum. Speaking of the mix, the record as a whole sounds phenomenal. Buster Odelholm of Impact Studios is credited with re-amping, drum production, mixing, and mastering. Boy howdy did he do one hell of a job! The Obliterationist has a pristine, clear sound with all the instruments sitting just right in the mix. Some may decry it as too “squeaky clean” and wish it were closer to the OSDM aesthetic but I, personally, prefer being able to pick out notes in a riff. Maybe the sound of this album could stand to shade a little grittier but its death metal for god’s sake, its already fuckin’ gritty!
Not to be out done by their engineer, Orecus has compiled a spectacularly brutal pile of riffage on The Obliterationist. The opener, which is also the title track, punches you in the face with nasty riffage right from the get go and the record really doesn’t let up for its whole 42 minute run time. Some moments to breath are incorporated such as the breakdown in “Omnipotent”. Lots of space between the chugs here and some tasty, textural tremolo lets one appreciate and ponder the nastiness already heard and the chaos sure to come. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still gettin’ punched in the face but the pace of blows slow just enough to allow one to appreciate the sublimity of the chaotic onslaught.
As mentioned earlier, Orecus has managed to distill many of the past and present trends and influences in the death metal sphere into a tight and coherent whole. The Obliterationist is almost like an expert summary of everything that has happened in death metal for the last 30 years. I really think this band’s next record could push the genre forward by leaps and bounds. If you like death metal, and you must if you’ve read this far, then you definitely owe to yourself to check out this album, out March 12 via Violent Groove!