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Obake Luke Turner , September 16th, 2011 10:39

While it’s always good if a band have a genuinely funny, thought provoking or simply intriguing name, nothing beats the kind of nomenclature that captures the sonic essence of the band in a word or two. An obake is a type of Japanese (or Hawaiian Japanese) ghost or poltergeist whose unique characteristic is that they change shape depending on the taks they face. Confusingly these ghosts are not strictly seen as being dead. They are created by violent death or suicide – a fate considered so horrible that it stops the recently deceased person from passing on to the other side. Instead they become a half alive shape shifting animal.

Obake the group are not Japanese – they are Italian/Hungarian. Their name is purely a guide to their musical modus operandi. They play what can (very loosely) be called avant metal but glide through genres with ease – sometimes almost imperceptibly. They do this not merely to show that they can but instead to provoke strong emotional responses. Eraldo Bernocchi, the sound engineer and owner of Rare Noise records provides guitars, which range from full on doom and black metal assault to barely existent whispers and tendrils of ambient feedback. Massimo Pupillo, the bassist from blistering jazz metal trio, Zu carves out chunks of space in the mix with his fat low end. Vocalist and keyboard player Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari twists his vocal cords into baroque shapes in order to find affecting shifts in gear, from necrotic deathly growls to a sinister croon to multi-tracked Ligeti (dis)harmony to full operatic tenor. The only member not from Italy is Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi who is probably the most well known outside of his native country having worked with Venetian Snares, Zu, Merzbow, Wormskull and the Killimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble. Here his job is not so much anchoring the foot of the tornado as whipping it up into even faster and more erratic patterns.

On tracks such as Human Genome Project and Destruction Of The Tower, they lay down bowel prolapsing, standard doom progressions that bolstered sublimely with sepulchral electronics and deep dub echoes. Elsewhere on Endocrinal Pineal Gland, things are stripped back to a gentle 21st Century reboot for Brian Eno’s Discrete Music and Popol Vuh’s Aguirre – Wrath Of God soundtrack. ‘Grandmother Spider’ sees the gothic post punk of late Joy Division/early New Order and trilogy playing The Cure but enlivened with complex jazz drumming. Obake will stand up to repeated listens as its exerts shifts in style in texture. Some of these movements are tectonic and earth shaking and some do not even register on the most sensitive of Richter Scale measuring devices. Yet more proof, if it were still needed, that heavy metal continues to throw up a sizeable chunk of the most forward looking music being released at the present moment.