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Centuries of Sorrow (1994)

Released in 1994, Centuries of Sorrow is the debut full-length from Norway's Obtained Enslavement. This band is one of the lesser-known acts from this time period, and for good reason. The best thing about this release is Pest's vocal performance. Thankfully, he moved on to Gorgoroth, where he was able to make better use of his talents. The songwriting, overall, is very inconsistent and mediocre.

Musically, this is a mixed bag. There are a few decent ideas mixed in with a lot that are not-so-good. By this point, many bands were forgetting (or simply never knew) that black metal was supposed to be dark. Here, Obtained Enslavement utilizes way too many uplifting melodies that would have been better suited for some old NWOBHM. The mere presence of harsh vocals and tremolo picking does not make something black metal, regardless of what anyone thinks. If the riffs are completely bereft of any hint of darkness, then harsh vocals or a certain picking style are not enough to make it something that it isn't. Some songs have very happy-sounding melodies that owe more to Iron Maiden than to Bathory. "Unblessed" and "Centuries of Sorrow" are good examples of this. Ignore the synth in the latter, which is bad enough, and focus on the melodies themselves. Then, songs like "Symbolic" and "Haze of Knowledge" feature death metal riffs, sounding like they had been ripped right from a Cannibal Corpse album. 

The production is kind of fuzzy, but not raw in any way. The guitars often have a thick sound to them, particularly emphasized during the death metal parts. Attempting to have kind of a rough sound when it doesn't suit the music is a little odd. With the melodic tendencies, Centuries of Sorrow would have benefited from something similar to Sacramentum's Far Away from the Sun, perhaps. The only thing that gives this a remotely black metal feel is the vocal work of Pest, which is drowned in reverb and has a very distant and obscure feeling at times.

Obtained Enslavement is not an essential band, the reason why is exemplified by this sloppy and haphazard album. Even the one song that seems to have the most promise, "As I Slowly Fade", goes from being a mid-paced and dreary track to a death metal section and then more melodic and uplifting nonsense. If that is your thing, you will enjoy this. Nonetheless, Centuries of Sorrow lacks the sense of darkness or, most importantly, the actual songwriting consistency to be considered black metal.
(11 Mar. 2014)

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