Black Table’s apocalyptic Obelisk starts at the bottom of a deep cavern and never rises from it. It tries to escape its bleak surroundings, clawing broken fingernails up the cavern’s jagged edges, but any progress is short lived. Obelisk is an unforgiving debut, its cataclysmic black metal sucked into a doomy space vacuum until no remnants of hope remain.
Their major release up to this point has been the 2012 demo Sentinel, yet Obelisk doesn’t sound like a band still trying to find their musical bearings. A whirlwind of anger screams from the throat of vocalist/guitarist Mers Sumida, whose voice crackles and intensifies as the album wears on. However, vocals take breaks for minutes at a time to allow the toxic atmosphere to shape.
Compared to the punchy approach of “Obtuse,” the alluring intro to “Shadow” is tranquil. The layers that can be peeled back behind the band’s ruthless, blackened shell hide melodic dimensions, though nothing that could be classified as “smooth” or “relaxing.” Even if there are moments where that could be the case, as “Cromagnon” proves early on with its haunting whispers and hypnotic drumming, the collapse into full-blown mayhem is inevitable.
Though the eight tracks on Obelisk are not connected together lyrically, the whole album has the pull of a single concept. Some of that has to do with the intro and outro tracks, unsettling instrumentals that invite and terrify the listener, and some of that is because each song seems a part of one another in a small way. Like the chapters of a thriller, Obelisk provides motivation to continue on ahead for just a bit longer.
Any debut album can be a shaky task, an unpredictable attempt to define without simplifying, to command without overcompensating, to engage without being forceful. Black Table have put out about as good of a first effort as any band can do by elaborating on what made their Sentinel demo so intriguing. The deep cavern that is Obelisk proves to be an eerie home with little chance of escape.
(released October 14, 2016 on Silent Pendulum)