Three years have passed since Indianapolis death quartet Obscene struck with their Sermon to the Snake debut EP. That release preceded my own arrival to Indiana’s capital, but it didn’t take long for the band’s serrated death assault to snare my attention. Not long after I transplanted to Indiana I watched Obscene command the stage during a show with Necrot and Blood Incantation. Swiftly converted, I wrote my first piece for Indy Metal Vault soon after. In the concert review I noted Obscene’s diabolical pastiche of early ‘90s death metal. There’s a familiar Floridian madness in their songwriting without surrendering to full-on Tampa worship. They demonstrate Stockholm sensibilities without the buzzsaw tone. Obscene’s songs are undeniably old school at heart. But there’s zero interest in simply parroting their favorite Master and Asphyx tracks.
Now Obscene is armed with The Inhabitable Dark, their dusky new LP from Blood Harvest Records. “Without Honor and Humility” opens the record like the elevator doors in The Shining; the song is a scarlet riptide like the blood river on Mark Riddick’s cover illustration. The voracious Bible-chewing appetite of “Bless the Giver of Oblivion” is a nasty stylistic counterpoint to the Swedeath stomp and surprising melodicism of “All Innocence Burns Here.” Those looking for wild-blooded blasts and solos can engorge on the thrashing and gnashing “Isolated Dumping Grounds” and “This is He Who Kills.” The album is primal yet pensive; aggressive and adroit. By the time the title track’s delicate piano closes the record, the components that comprise Obscene individually vanish. They’re all notable when isolated: The dry-tomb rasp of Kyle Shaw. Guitarist Mike Morgan’s slicing riffs. The propulsion of drummer Brandon Howe and bassist Roy Hayes. But together, The Inhabitable Dark emerges as a death metal record unbeholden to any retro fad or targeted mimicry. Obscene are building their own bone palace on a foundation of stalwart songwriting while honoring the genre’s past.
Stream Obscene’s The Inhabitable Dark before it’s released from Blood Harvest Records on June 12th. Also scroll further for an interview with vocalist Kyle Shaw and drummer Brandon Howe about the album’s lyrical inspiration and their killer collaborators. But first, press play NOW and delight in extinction.
Decibel Magazine interview with Obscene
Were there any adjustments to Obscene’s sound or songwriting approach you wanted to make after your Sermon to the Snake EP?
Brandon Howe (drums): Absolutely. I feel now that we have more years and experience jamming together as a whole, our sound has matured and become a whole new beast. The guitars and drums on Sermon were primarily written by me, as I had a bit of a vision for what I wanted out of the band before it even became a thing. I’ve always loved the general moodiness and tones in the realm of Swedish death metal, and that’s kinda what I was going for. I had a bunch of riff ideas sitting around that finally found their release when all of us congregated and started out as Blood Chasm. It wasn’t long before we started playing shows, because the songs were basically already done, and were learned amongst everyone very quickly.
Shortly after shifting into a new name, we went through some lineup changes. Picking up Roy Hayes, who was well known for his aggressively distorted bass tones within our community of local warriors. We knew him well from him being in a band with Kyle prior to all of this called Boddicker. We also scooped up Mike Morgan, who also wields the axe in the other band that I do vocals for, Summon the Destroyer. I’ve known and been a part of this dudes riffing for almost a decade, and knew he was the perfect fit. Since that, their combined riffing and contributions have taken this band to new heights. The songs have gotten heavier, faster, more memorable, and just feel more full. The songwriting has been way more of a collective effort this time around, and we’ve sat down with these tracks a lot longer—tweaking, changing, adding to, beefing up, etc. The end result has proven to be far superior than what we grounded ourselves on, and we’re all very proud of it.
What does the title The Inhabitable Dark mean to you?
Kyle Shaw (vocals): Personally, I look at it as embracing the sordid and being content with aspects one is either unhappy or previously uncomfortable with. It was inspired (AKA lifted) from a pivotal point in the protagonist’s character arc in Jack Ketchum’s Red novel. I purposely left the lyrics scattered about inside the physical format to convey a debilitating mental state. While there are songs inspired by real life atrocities (“Black Hole of Calcutta”), literature (“This is He Who Kills” is inspired by Richard Matheson’s “Prey”), they’re all at one with The Inhabitable Dark.
The album was recorded and mixed with Carl Byers, who you also worked with for the EP. What were the most difficult parts of recording The Inhabitable Dark in 3 days?
BH: Honestly, none of it was really difficult. It was truly one of the smoothest, most professional recording sessions I’ve ever been a part of. Carl is a master of his craft, and when he’s behind the board—especially one of that size—shit gets done. Everyone was comfortable in their own workings. We had our tones dialed in quickly, and had plenty of time in the end to sit down in the main room, hammer beers and go over the entirety of the record with Carl. The raw mixes alone were crushing as is. So yeah, zero difficulties, all hailing and killing.
The album was also mastered by Damian Herring of Horrendous at his Subterranean Watchtower Studios. What made Herring a good fit for this record and Obscene’s desired sound?
KS: Horrendous are one of my favorite death metal bands of the past decade and I knew Damian had run the gamut of production work with sick bands like Sewercide, Ripped to Shreds, and Sentient Horror. The most recent House of Atreus record convinced me to at least bring the idea to the table with everyone else, and we all agreed anyway due to the strength of Horrendous alone.
The album art from Mark Riddick is killer. What guidance did you give him for the album’s artwork? Did you want it to embody any of the album’s themes?
KS: Pretty much all what was given to him was the idea of some sort of famished being surrounded by darkness, death, and filth. I had sent him some lyrics of songs we were working on that ended up not making the cut. With someone like Mark, it’s best to let him do his thing. He clearly knows what the fuck he’s doing and his body of work speaks for itself. The only other suggestion we brought his way was including red for the blood. Truth be told, I was a little nervous even asking him that considering he primarily works in black and white. Thankfully, he handled it like a pro and knocked it out of the park.
How are you and the other members coping with the pandemic? What ways have you adapted to ensure Obscene keeps momentum leading up to a record release?
KS: I can only speak for myself, but it’s been up and down. I’m pretty much a homebody, so hanging out with my wife and stepson watching horror movies and pro wrestling is always awesome. Having to cancel shows and put our planned tour on hold after we just finished paying for our van is a drag.
But y’know, boohoo. Shit sucks for everyone not named Jeff Bezos so not much ‘woe is me’ to really speak of. As far as ensuring we have momentum, just sharing some positive reviews we’ve come across and releasing a few tracks. Anything more is punishing. We’re confident enough in our material speaking for itself without trying to formulate some cringey ‘marketing plan.’ Being an Indiana based underground death metal band wasn’t paying anyone’s bills prior to COVID-19.
BH: I’m in the same boat as far as being homebody goes. I watch a lot of movies, read a lot of books, cook a lot of food, play a lot of drums and guitar, and hang around with my dog. We’ve recently begun rehearsing and getting together again. Still pumping out hot riffs, still blasting and running my kicks, and still howling cries of death into the night. Sometimes breaks can be beneficial as a time to recharge a bit, I suppose. We may or may not already have at least half of another new record done if not in the works. In regards to keeping momentum, I second Kyle’s response. All we can really do during these empty times is share cool shit, encourage the pre-orders available, and stay as active as possible! Things will fall back into place in time, and until then… stay safe, maniacs! Cheers!
Pre-order Obscene’s The Inhabitable Dark HERE
Order additional Obscene merch from Blood Harvest Records HERE
And follow Obscene on Facebook for updates HERE