Obtained Enslavement - _Witchcraft_
(Wounded Love, 1997)
by: Drew Snow (10 out of 10)
Before I get on to the meat of this review, let me just say that if I sound a little -too- enthusiastic about this album, excuse me, but I am still under the spell of Obtained Enslavement, as I have been ever since the joyous day that this little disc of musical magnificence appeared miraculously in my mailbox. The words to describe _Witchcraft_ come one after another: atmospheric, grandiose, orchestral, melodic, superb, devastating, symphonic... all of these and more fit nicely in this situation, but mere words alone cannot truly describe the complete near-perfection recorded therein. Obtained Enslavement have created a fifty-one minute opus of totally fantastic, atmospheric, layered black metal so lush with instrumentation, melody, and orchestration as to almost leap beyond the simple, constricting boundaries of "black metal" into a whole new realm of musical experience. As with most similar bands, keyboards play a huge part here, but as opposed to many bands of their ilk, Obtained Enslavement never rely on a single type of sound from the keyboard; instead, the sounds range from your typical black metal whispy keys, to near full orchestra simulation, to piano, to baroque harpsichord, to -- well, you get the picture. Speaking of piano, that brings to mind the two keyboard instrumentals on _Witchcraft_, the intro and outro. These go far beyond typical intros and outros, however, and into complex works with personalities all their own, as the intro is three and a half minutes, and the outro is five minutes in duration. Showing OE's obvious musical training, the final piece is reminiscent of Chopin's piano prelude works, though a bit longer. Since OE are basically unknown even in black metal circles (even though this is their second album), some comparison to other bands may be helpful in this case, and I can't avoid comparing them to a cohesive mixture of Arcturus, Dismal Euphony, Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Ulver, Limbonic Art and Satyricon, except _Witchcraft_ contains elements far above and beyond even those eminent bands. Blazingly fast drumming (though never too fast for its own good), melodic, wandering guitars, perfect synth, excellent composition -- what the hell else is needed? Though there have been a bunch of great ones this year, I have to say that _Witchcraft_ gets my vote for black metal album of the year, hands down.

(article published 17/11/1997)

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