Murder of Crows, the first track on Brazilian band Semblant’s new album Obscura explodes out of a creepy minor-key intro from keyboardist J. Augusto. Drummer Thor Sikora gets his twin kick pedals going behind the big crescendoing chorus, with layers and layers of digital reverb on the guitars – that’s Sol Perez and Juliano Ribeiro getting into a tantalizingly brief, machinegunning duel. These guys want you to listen to the rest of the record, whether at their youtube channel or elsewhere.
The persistent dichotomy here is between soaring frontwoman Mizuho Lin and Sergio Mazul’s guttural death-metal roar. The songcraft is catchy and anthemic, usually based on upward waves from verse to chorus, as in the rapidfire intensity of Left Behind, a relentless minor-key punk-metal number.
Dethrone the Gods, Control the Masters, Legacy of Blood is much the same: somebody sends a scream into the stratosphere and signals a guitar solo over the classical synth and ominously ascending firestorm. “The number of unconfirmed deaths is unknown…the government declares a state of emergency.” Sound familiar?
Techy, blippy synth introduces the venomous guitars and gritty bass of Mere Shadow, set in an in an increasingly familiar dystopia where “The walls are closed down, separating me from the emptiness unfolding,” as Lin wails.
Likewise, the band explode into the chorus of Porcelain, an ominously lingering anthem in 6/8 time. They shift up the rhythm for The Hunter, the Hunger, angel versus devil, then pick up the pace with Wasteland its menacing, allusively Middle Eastern guitar break. They hit Barely Breathing just as hard, although it could have been a new wave-era hit if you switched out the guitar roar for a synth and left the vocals to Lin. Remember Ninth House’s crushing cover of Real Life’s Send Me an Angel?
The demon/angel tension reaches a peak in the murderously crescendoing, rapidfire Wallachia. A tortured blues intro foreshadows the album’s best and most dynamic, classically-influenced anthem, Daydream Tragedy, Lin’s avenger vocals finally taking over for good. The album peaks out at the end with Insomnia, a grimly strutting chromatic assault: it looks like the bad guys win this time.