Gothic metal veterans experiencing a second spring - A review of Crematory's Oblivion
Crematory has created some controversy when drummer and founding member Markus Jüllich recently addressed the band's financial issues and complained about the fact that most people would listen to streams and download their records illegally instead of supporting the band by buying the records' physical versions and attending concerts. He asked the fans quite harshly to buy the band's records and attend its shows if they want to keep Crematory going. The reactions to this have been quite controversial. Several people called the band leader a crybaby, felt insulted by being called lazy and suggested the band to utilize the internet to their own advantage, release better music and lower its concert ticket prices. Others have voiced their support for the veterans, claiming that the financial issues Crematory has are shared by many other bands, congratulating the band on its honesty to deal with the difficult topic and stating that fifteen bucks for a new album and thirty bucks for a concert are indeed very reasonable. The negative element aside these tough but constructive discussions was that some haters and trolls who aren't even familiar with the band actually menaced the band leader to hurt him, made fun of his physical appearance and encouraged the band to split up. Mistakes were certainly made both by the drummer and certain commentators in these emotional circumstances but let's turn the page and see what the new album has to offer.
Oblivion proves that Crematory's music is still relevant. Despite a modest budget, difficult personal issues and three important line-up changes over the past few years, Crematory has managed to release an album that is as strong or maybe even slightly better than the convincing fresh start in form of Monument two years earlier. It underlines the band's great chemistry, coherency and creativity. The record finds the right balance between more atmospheric, melancholic and melodic songs like the beautiful ''Revenge Is Mine'' with its touching keyboard harmonies and appeasing clean vocals and some of the group's heaviest tracks in form of the sinister album closer ''Demon Inside'' that mixes heavy riffs and vocals on one side and atmospheric parts on the other rather efficiently. Most Crematory records have one really catchy track you won't get out of your mind anymore. In this case, this track might be ''Immortal'' which offers a perfect mixture of danceable electronic soundscapes with mysterious vocal effects and heavy guitar play and gloomy growls before coming around with a melodic chorus combining both contrasting elements. Some people might be confused by this mixture of heavy verses and almost saccharine choruses but Crematory has been there before and this stylistic element is also quite popular in Japanese metal genres. Maybe the band should tour the Far East to have more commercial success.
The band's singers sound better than ever. Harsh vocalist Felix Stass doesn't only deliver his usual powerful growls but also offers more melodic diversity and even whispers here and there to accentuate atmospheric transitions in and in between songs as in the dynamic opener ''Salvation''. Clean vocalist Tosse Basler convinces with catchy and melodic parts but also performs a more atmospheric lower register which suits him very well in the solid power ballad ''Stay with Me'' that also comes around with electronic components and acoustic guitars to make the predictable ballad a little bit more experimental.
The band has also improved instrumentally. The keyboard sounds are much more diversified, experimental and well-integrated in the band sound and can convince in every single song. The guitar play isn't extraordinary but has more punch than usual thanks to a great production. The bass guitar is slightly more audible than usual to introduce new band member Jason Mathias. However, the bass guitar and drums could sound even more diversified and playful in a few songs but the band is on the right track in my opinion.
Not every song on Oblivion is memorable and the record might haven been even more enjoyable if it had been reduced to its nine or ten greatest songs. On the other side, the band offers value for money and the record has great flow.
In the end, Oblivion is among the best records in Crematory's career that has been going on for nearly three decades by now. It might not beat the group's successful middle years around releases like Act Seven, Believe and Revolution but it comes really close. The band seems to be on a streak with its new line-up and I certainly hope the sextet will carry on. Crematory deserves the support of its fans and metal community and those who are rambling about how the band has become obsolete can leave the hall and should maybe think about consulting an otolaryngologist.
Final rating: 81%
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