Home > Music > Obtained Enslavement – Witchcraft (1997)

Obtained Enslavement – Witchcraft (1997)

folderCriminally overlooked black metal albums are a dime a dozen, even in the days of the internet. Witchcraft has sophisticated compositions, acceptable production and mixing, and a dense soundscape born of its “symphonic” elements, and yet to most, this band’s legacy is that the band’s main vocalist also contemporaneously served with Gorgoroth (who, to be fair, have also produced high quality black metal in their time). To be fair, this isn’t as immediately accessible as more minimalistic, lo-fi strains of black metal, like those popularized by Darkthrone. Arguably, the best comparisons are albums like Emperor’s debut, or even Sacramentum (although they lack the symphonic element).

One reason this album sounds the way it does is that while there’s plenty of layering, there’s not a lot of direct overlap between what each musician plays – in short, there’s plenty of polyphony, and many sections where one of the instruments is playing counterpoint to the others. Beyond this, the guitarists provide a wide variety of riffs due to their use of a wide variety of intervals (although there are a lot of 7ths), occasional forays into major-key tonality that remind me of Sorcier des Glaces, and an overall sort of ‘dueling’ approach that you don’t see often in music without frequent solos. The keyboards occasionally join in on the leads – the first example of this is probably the showy piano arpeggios near the beginning of “Veils of Wintersorrow”.

Overall, despite the claims of dark magic and night worship, the effect this album creates is more “heroic” in nature than your average black metal album. The obvious bands for that sort of material are Summoning or Bal-Sagoth (although that only applies to their earlier, more blatantly black metal albums), but Obtained Enslavement does offer enough of their own spin on this type of material to make them stand out. The overall aesthetic is very sonically dense compared to other epic fantasy lovers in the genre due to the aforementioned counterpoint and polyphony, but the compositions have their similarities. There’s even a bit of the ‘cheese factor’ I associate with such bands, although that’s limited mostly to some of the lower budget keyboard patches. This sort of style was very well established by 1997 – in fact, the band had contributed to such with their 1994 debut, Centuries of Sorrow, which is roughly similar to this, but apparently not as heavily symphonic.

If you ask me, the only real flaw of this album is that some of the later tracks feel redundant. The first half (up to “Warlock”) is top-tier melodic/symphonic black metal that strikes a good balance between musical complexity and the aggression expected of extreme metal. One reason the later tracks don’t come off quite as well might be that the high amounts of effort required to write this sort of music may have tired the band’s creative capabilities, but without any information about the creation of this album, I can’t say for sure. Either way, I wouldn’t dwell on that, given the overall high quality of this album.

Highlights: “Veils of Wintersorrow”, “From Times in Kingdoms”, “Warlock”, “The Seven Witches”

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