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Darkness. It can be harrowing, unnerving, yet immersive, and strangely beautiful. It is upon these conflicting contours that one finds the doom-laden German melodic death metal band Nailed To Obscurity.
Founded in Esens, Lower Saxony, in 2005 the German five-piece debuted with 2007’s Abyss and followed with two further albums, leading to 2017’s King Delusion. Nailed To Obscurity are poised to release their fourth album, Black Frost in early 2019, and it holds nothing back from the eternally spiralling void of darkness.
With the release of Black Frost, Nailed To Obscurity have turned their gaze inward, to explore the brooding turbulence of humanity’s deep running emotional currents. Guitarist Jan-Ole Lamberti illuminates us to the resonant metaphor of ‘Black Frost’. “’Black frost’ is a phenomenon known from seafaring,” he explains “… normally you wouldn’t think of the colour black when you think of frost … what it actually is, is when a ship is manoeuvring through humid areas and when then ship is cold the humidity builds frost of pieces of the ship, like the mast, and so you don’t really expect frost to be on the ship but it can even cause the ship to capsize without even realising that there is frost on the ship. Anyway, so the frost is up on the mast, on the top of the ship, and it’s getting so heavy that it can cause the ship to capsize. So that is what black frost is, and we thought it’s a cool metaphor, to transport this phenomenon to human beings, to people. So this black frost is the weight, the burden that some people carry around, without always knowing about this burden that can cause the person to capsize, in a way. That’s the basic idea.”
We planned to write a bit more of a darker album than the last one, so that was the only thing that we were aiming for, and I don’t even know why, it just felt right to do that.
[ Jan-Ole Lamberti ]
That certainly is a powerful metaphor. The storms of the mind and the profound depths of human emotion have long been familiar terrain for Nailed To Obscurity, as Lamberti agrees, “That is our main topic always, in a way we are kind of fascinated by such dark feelings and you know, the psychological side of being a human, but also all the lyrics are really personal, so there’s always a big part from Raimund [Ennenga, vocalist], but on the other hand we always get asked why we are always so negative, that does not mean we are always sad and depressed … making this music is, for everyone in the band, a channel to let these kind of emotions out and to think about it, and apart from that we are not always depressed and sad [laughs] … Definitely when it comes to playing the drums, guitars–especially the guitars—there is a lot of emotion in there, not just, and I say “just” [laughs] the lyrics, its everything, it’s the whole band, its emotional for us.”
Dark music can be curiously cathartic, as we found with King Delusion, and it seems that with Black Frost, Nailed To Obscurity grow darker still. “Yes, I totally agree with that,” states Lamberti. “When we write songs its normally we are just going with the flow, we just jam around, of course Volker [Dieken, guitarist] and I we start the song writing process and we collect our first ideas as a duo, so to speak but then the actual songwritng process starts with the whole band and we are meeting up in the rehearsal room and write the songs together so, a lot of things we can’t foresee happening, and then there is a song, happy with it or not [laughs] and if not we keep working on it but there’s also always a main idea in the beginning and our idea was to create an even darker atmosphere, more atmosphere, yeah because we realised on King Delusion, at least for me, it was the first album that had this kind of atmosphere, and we really liked that, so we wanted to take that a step further, and that’s what we did, I guess. I think we achieved that, that’s what we were aiming for at least [laughs].”
Continuing to discuss this descent into even more immersive, atmospheric realms, Lamberti reflects on how this manifested musically on Black Frost. “Actually what we did”, he begins “apart from the fact that we tried to leave even more space for the vocals in some parts, especially the verses, we almost took away the lead guitars that we normally always played over the rhythm guitars and we replaced those with other kinds of guitars, like picked, crunched guitars or this really atmospheric, almost ambient sound, that sounds more like a keyboard than a guitar, you know, there are almost no keyboards on this album, just two really short passages on there, lower in the mix so you don’t even hear them [laughs … so everything that sounds like a keyboard is actually guitars. So, that is kind of what we did already on King Delusion, but we took it to a whole different level with this kind of ambient sound and we played less lead guitars on this album I would say, in the classic sense, like melody guitars, because we used to do that all the time and we felt that if we focus on those melodies that we really think are really strong, or the strongest of those we have written for this album, then they come out much better, you know, its just if there are not so many lead guitars but only those that for us are outstanding, the rest we wanted to leave more space for the vocals and create more atmosphere, so that’s the difference I guess. We planned to write a bit more of a darker album than the last one, so that was the only thing that we were aiming for, and I don’t even know why, it just felt right to do that.”
The tempests of internal darkness have many layers and forms, which Nailed To Obscurity have sought to capture on Black Frost, to create a space in which the listener can find themselves, and Lamberti explains, “one important thing always is, and its especially important to Raimund as he wrote the lyrics, is that people can find themselves in the lyrics, he always leaves a lot of space for interpretation. So, that is important to us that we are not just telling stories, and throwing it to people, they can identify with what they find in the lyrics and also enjoy listening to it of course. But yeah, I think its important that its more than just an album that you just listen to once and like it, we wish that there is going to be a closer relationship to the people listen to it that they can identify with it, with us, that is the best thing we can hope for.”