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Embalm - Prelude to Obscurity

Prelude to Obscurity
by David Hough at 15 February 2023, 1:32 PM

20 Buck Spin has reissued the EMBALM concept album, “Prelude To Obscurity.” This album consists of material from the “Prelude To Obscurity” demo, the “Persistence Of Suffering” demo, and two previously unreleased live tracks from a concert in 1998. Since the album consists of three separate recordings, I will cover two songs from each demo and both live tracks.

The album opens with “Descend Into Extinction” and it is obvious right away that these recordings lack the pride and polish applied to standard album content. The production is raw and crunchy. I enjoyed the retro guitar tone and low, growled vocals. As far as production value goes, these first four tracks sound the best when compared to the other demo and live cuts.

This demo ends with, “Exquisite Tenderness.” This track starts with a lightning-fast intro and gets even more fun as it progresses. The “demo quality” gives this song a certain charm that is simply infectious. There are higher-pitched vocals mixed with the low growls, and that is a combination that has stood the test of time. This track and the three preceding it make me wish that EMBALM were still making music.

Intrusion” is the first track from the “Persistence Of Suffering” demo and it sounds rougher than the previous demo. The recording quality takes some getting used to, but the music contained within is an excellent example of early US Death Metal. The riffs and vocals are top-notch. I’m not sure if it was an issue of the microphone placement during the recording or not, but the drum sound leaves a lot to be desired.

Persistence Of Suffering” is what it sounds like when every band member is going all out. The vocals and cymbals on this track are much louder than the rest of the instruments at times, but those factors only add to the charm of the demo. Once again, the guitar riffs are superb. There’s also an exciting bass guitar lick that comes out of nowhere just before the track ends.

The two unreleased live tracks are simply labeled “I” and “II” followed by the date of the recording. “Unreleased Live I 3.28.98” has a sound only a mother could love. While the song sounds cohesive, it is difficult to make out any individual notes. The sound of the audience can be heard at times, which is distracting. Once finally acclimated to the recording quality, I noticed an enjoyable breakdown. This track reminded me of what it is like to see a show from the back of the crowd in a small venue with poor acoustics. There is a certain charm in that feeling, but it can only do so much.

Unreleased Live II 3.28.98” is only marginally better sounding than its predecessor. It begins with Oscar Perez going wild on the drum kit. Unfortunately, the snare drum sound rises and dominates the whole track. The backbeat sounds promising and the short, isolated bass guitar part makes me do a mental double-take, which is a big plus. That being said, these two live tracks don’t pass muster.

Prelude To Obscurity” is a difficult compilation. The recording quality continually degrades with each release, and the two live tracks are nigh unlistenable. Still, there is a sort of “do-it-yourself” approach that should be recognized. It is also easy to acclimate to the recording quality with the demos. The live tracks probably looked good on paper, but I don’t see why EMBALM decided to include them. Fans of raw, early death metal will find more to love in this compilation than those who are looking for top-shelf death metal without taking nostalgia into account.

Songwriting: 7
Memorability: 5
Production: 2

2 Star Rating

1. Descend Into Extinction
2. Sanctified Massacre
3. Cry in Agony
4. Exquisite Tenderness
5. Intrusion
6. Repulsive Existence
7. Persistence of Suffering
8. Inhumane Thoughts
9. Unreleased Live I 3.28.98
10. Unreleased Live II 3.28.98
Matt Ramirez - Bass
Oscar Perez - Drums, Vocals (backing)
Andy Schoengrund - Guitars, Vocals
Josue Guadalupe - Guitars (lead), Vocals
Record Label: 20 Buck Spin


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