FREELOADER: AFTER OBLIVION’S VULTURES EP
Welcome to the latest edition of “Freeloader,” in which we review albums that you don’t have to feel like a douche for downloading for free. Today Satan Rosenbloom checks out After Oblivion’s Vultures EP.
It is part of Music Criticism 101 to hold up originality as a virtue. Even if a band doesn’t possess any of it, a positive review of said band will often acknowledge why the band’s other qualities make up for their lack of originality. That’s all fine and good, but we can all think of plenty of bands that embrace a well-established sound so fully and energetically that it makes tired clichés relevant again.
My new favorite rehash metal band is Bosnian-Herzegovinaian quartet After Oblivion. These guys sound like Death. A whole lot. They acknowledge it in their press materials; they even played Death tribute shows to gear up for the writing/recording of Vultures. And in many ways, Vultures feels like a tribute EP. The band’s Chuck Schuldiner is singer/guitarist Adnan Hatić, who screams in that same parched upper register of late-era Schuldiner, and solos with a similar mix of elegance and shred. Rhythm guitars work in the Arabian modes and harmonies of Symbolic-era Death. Listen closely and you’ll hear bass slides that recall Steve DiGiorgio’s fretwork on Individual Thought Patterns. The similarities are uncanny.
And you know what? Despite its derivativeness, Vultures is phenomenal. Not many bands (Illogicist? Dreaming Dead?) have tried to harness Death’s idiosyncratic sound. Fewer succeed. After Oblivion have done it, and also written songs that Schuldiner would have been proud to pen if he were still alive. “Septic Minds” shreds smartly, with proggy guitar curlicues decorating its groovy thrash verses, Adnan even ends the lyric “We live in the world feeding on / LIES!” with those cool vocal syncopations that Death did so well. “Vultures” and “Deliverance” each steamroll right past their occasional ESL-isms (e.g. “Is this the face of future / Laughing on human kind”), offering manifold top-notch headbanging opportunities in recompense.
Granted, these three songs are each in the same key and approximately the same speed – an album’s worth of Death worship would be too much without more variety. But these three songs are nigh-perfect. Will After Oblivion channel their homage into something more personal in the future? Who knows, and who cares? I don’t love Vultures because of After Oblivion – I love it because of Death. Chuck Schuldiner is inimitable. No arguing with that. But he’s also dead. And while I still discover something new every time I listen to Human or The Sound of Perseverance, I don’t mind having new songs from a Death replica to tide me over until a future when we can reanimate him.