HEIDEN - Obsidian (NAGA Productions CD 2009)
This band went a long journey in their musical evolution. They started as an uninteresting and forgettable pagan metal act, then went towards more progressive and avant-garde direction and finally changed into a rock / pop band, which you can hear on their last two records. "Obsidian" is a peak of Heiden creativity, I think, and their best album, leaving the previous efforts way behind and never to be bettered neither by the still pretty damn good follower "Dolores" nor the mentioned pop / rock / Katatonia influenced records like "A kdybys už nebyla, vymyslím si tě" (which I even have on vinyl ha!). While the previous black / pagan metal albums like "Era 2 ... ve vírech poznání..." or "Tinne" bored me pretty fast, "Obsidian" sounds incredibly well from start to finish and is a fine achievement of this band, in my opinion.
Stylistically it's pretty progressive but intriguing black metal, something what nowadays we would call "post black metal" due to the harmonies, dissonant riffage and some long instrumental guitar parts, which give you a mesmerizing and truly exciting feeling (all a bit alike to Agalloch). There are still quite few aggressive and vicious fragments, but the main focus on "Obsidian" was putted on great atmospheric parts, with sort of nostalgic and sorrowful feel, with slow or mid paced tempos and great harmonies and riffs, including some clean guitar parts, to achieve more expressive and diverse result. In "Buried 100 Years Ago" Heiden went even further and came up with a depressive song that is entirely played on acoustic and has whispered, rather than harsh, vocals. It fits to end the whole album for sure and the result is simply very good. But it's not my favourite part of "Obsidian" and there are better tracks around this album to bring your attention.
First off, I have to say that I really like the riffing and arrangements’ style on "Obsidian" and maybe this is why the whole tracklist is so damn good and even. There's lots of great stuff going on and far from the simple, basic type of song structure. Believe me that Heiden managed to come up with great quality songwriting, rich with fantastic ideas and performed in good way. They mostly concentrate on good melodic parts, take for example this song called "Thujone", with its harmonic parts and dark, sorrowful aura. What a nice song and what a good listen. This music is actually very easy to get into, it's not very obscure or malicious sounding black metal. And with that melodic stuff and almost doomy tempos it's just a nice, interesting and intriguing album. Personally though, I like those more dynamic tracks like "Post Lux Tenebras" or "Catharsis" the most.
One more intriguing thing about "Obsidian" is its artwork and booklet. The front shows a hand black as tar, holding a heart... quite dark and disturbing photograph. Meanwhile the pages inside the booklet are white, with even more interesting photographs. Lyrics are all in Czech, but there are their English translations provided, so this way you'll be able to understand everything. All in all, "Obsidian" is a very good and interesting album. I have to say that I couldn't free myself from it when I started to play it few days ago. I had this album in my collection since ages, but I do admit that I haven't listened to it in long time. But recently I wanted to check all these early Heiden albums and this one really stands out and is so damn good that I decided to write few words about “Obsidian”.
Standout tracks: "Catharsis", "At a Funeral", "Thujone", "Post Lux Tenebras", "Monomania" (uppsss, I just mentioned 5 out of 8 songs...)
Final rate: 85/100