Nailed To Obscurity
Esens, Germany. Nestled at whatever-end of Lower Saxony, where the East Frisian Islands form a barrier against the wailing North Sea, the town of 7,000 has slept the years away. Most people haven’t heard of Esens, once home to Baroque composer Philipp Heinrich Erlebach. But if they have, they’ve often confused it with Essen, Germany’s ninth largest city. Well, that’s about to change. Not the confusing part, but the fact that rising death metal stars NAILED TO OBSCURITY are about to put Esens on the proverbial map with new album, »Black Frost«, their first for Nuclear Blast Records.
Formed in 2005 by teenagers Jan-Ole Lamberti (guitars) and Volker Dieken (guitars), NAILED TO OBSCURITY went through the usual ups and downs as a band. The Germans took their name from a song off HATE ETERNAL’s debut album, »Conquering The Throne«, but that’s another story for another time. Mere months after forming, NAILED TO OBSCURITY issued their first demo, »Our Darkness«. Certainly, line-up shifts were part of the progression as a band, but Lamberti and Dieken - the band’s primary songwriters - pushed on, with Jann Hillrichs (drums) and Carsten Schorn (bass) forming the rhythmic foundation. While most bands live and die on the possibility of signing a label deal, NAILED TO OBSCURITY persevered, releasing their debut album, »Abyss«, independently in 2007. By the time, the group ushered in »Opaque« in 2013 and »King Delusion« in 2017 - both for German independent Apostasy Records - they were a different band entirely. BURIAL VAULT vocalist Raimund Ennenga had replaced Alexander Dirks in 2012, and the rest, at least for the present, is history.
Today, NAILED TO OBSCURITY remain Lamberti and Dieken’s labor of love, but the duo are far from authoritarian in the way they write music. In fact, while the two axe-slingers comprise the creative core, NAILED TO OBSCURITY complete songs as a band. They flesh out ideas, structures, and arrangements together, jamming in front of one another instead of the computer or bedroom wall. This is something that persists to this very day. Even as recording technology advances at a frantic pace and members of NAILED TO OBSCURITY are spread out over Germany, they still shack up on weekends in the rehearsal room in Esens to write together. That’s how new album, »Black Frost«, was born.
“Normally, it’s me and the other guitar player Volker [Dieken] writing the main structures,” says Jan-Ole Lamberti. “We write the riffs and collect the main ideas for the songs. [For »Black Frost«], we started one year ago. We wrote together on the weekends. We don’t live too close to one another now, so that’s how we had to write. We started that in September or October and then in January we sat with the rest of the band to arrange and elaborate the actual songs. From March on, we rehearsed from Friday evenings to Sunday evenings. Over that time period, the album was written. Volker and I would obviously record ideas on our own, but to arrange the songs we did it with the rest of the band in the rehearsal room. Like we always do. That’s a process that’s worked really well for us.”
Songs like 'Tears Of The Eyeless,' 'The Aberrant Host,' 'Road To Perdition,' and the magnificent title track were part of NAILED TO OBSCURITY’s weekend forays into the depths of melodic death metal (and beyond). The frantic pace at which »Black Frost« was written, however, didn’t impact the quality of songcraft. Whereas »King Delusion« focused on the pairing of savagery and melody, »Black Frost« changes up the formula. Call it maturity or desire to present ideas differently, NAILED TO OBSCURITY’s new songs churn, swirl, and coalesce around and into Ennenga’s engaging if cloudy psychosocial lyrics. They have presence. They’re empowered by Lamberti and Dieken’s soaring lead-riffs, melancholic dissonance, and careful introspection, but come to life after Hillrichs, Schorn, and Ennenga - whose growl is a must-hear - come into play. Clearly, »Black Frost« is something special.
“In the beginning, we had the problem [writing »Black Frost«],” Lamberti says. “We were trying to do the same thing as the last record, »King Delusion«. What I mean by that is »King Delusion« was the first record where we were completely satisfied with everything. We realized that wouldn’t really work out for us. If anything, the follow-up would be a copy and definitely not better than »King Delusion«. We skipped all that and started from scratch. That’s when the actual songwriting began. Our main goal was to do something different from that point on. I think »Black Frost« sounds like NAILED TO OBSCURITY - there are a lot of similarities - but it’s different. Instead of having classical lead guitar, which we had on the last two albums, we’ve diminished that in favor of more ambient sounds created on the guitar.”
Lyrically, »Black Frost« continues Ennenga’s fascination with struggle, strife, and self-control. The album title was plucked from a concept inspired by seafaring terminology. While at sea, ships may become over-burdened by black frost, a phenomenon where fog or rain freezes to the moorings or masts causing ships to become unbalanced. Unbalanced ships capsize easily. Ennenga took this concept to heart, applying it to humans, who struggle to control fear, anger, or rage. The idea is a cautionary tale to all of us to not let the black frost over-burden our minds.
“It’s not a closed concept album,” says Ennenga. “There are different topics that I sing about. In general, I try to find interesting metaphors of my own conflicts, inner conflicts or inner struggles. That’s what I did on »Opaque« and »King Delusion«. It’s the same thing on »Black Frost«, but it’s a different picture. The metaphors are different. It’s hard for me to talk about the lyrics because they’re abstract. Let’s put it this way: we all go through different episodes in life. The stuff that happened to me between »King Delusion« and »Black Frost« had a huge impact. I think »Black Frost« sums it up. It’s about burdens on our souls and minds. It deals with what happens when you have to struggle with that or have to deal with that. There are songs about fear. Like, when you’re alone in a room, but you don’t feel you’re alone. There’s no one around you, but there’s a presence there. »Black Frost« is about the struggling mind, I guess. But I do like to leave the lyrics open to interpretation.”
For »Black Frost«, NAILED TO OBSCURITY spent one week in pre-production - fleshing out songs, etc. - at V. Santura’s Woodshed Studio in Landshut, Germany over the summer. The Germans returned to V. Santura for three weeks to write the remainder and to record the album. They spent 8-hour days putting songs like 'Feardom,' 'Cipher,' and 'Resonance' - the final song to take shape for »Black Frost« - to digital “tape.” V. Santura engineered, produced, mixed, and mastered »Black Frost«, hefty responsibilities entrusted by NAILED TO OBSCURITY upon the budding German producer and studio owner.
“When we went to the studio on »King Delusion« it was the first time where it all felt right,” Lamberti says. “We not only had an engineer in V. Santura, but we also had a producer. He understood us. And we understood him. Like, he’s very honest about things. If he doesn’t like it or feels it sounds not quite right, he tells us. That’s what we like. Conversely, when V. Santura likes a song of ours, it can only mean the song is quite good. I would say we read each other well. We’re also fans of the bands V. Santura is in and the bands he’s producing. He’s a great person. He’s a great engineer. And he’s really the perfect producer for us. We had no choice but to go back to V. Santura and Woodshed Studio.”
Just as NAILED TO OBSCURITY returned to V. Santura to oversee the production, so too did the Germans re-hire Argentinean surrealist Santiago Caruso (STARGAZER, OCTOBER FALLS) to paint the cover art for »Black Frost«. While Caruso isn’t into metal of any type, he understands the Germans’ music and the darkness they’re presenting. He’s into the dark stuff. In fact, the member of the Beinart Surreal Art Collective has posited his own darkness across his own work - check out the 'El Jardin De Las Tumbas' painting - something that NAILED TO OBSCURITY recognize.
“We sent him the lyrics and the album title,” says Ennenga. “He asked for a little more freedom. He didn’t want to send sketches. On »King Delusion«, he sent sketches before we approved the final version. For »Black Frost«, he started and sent us the various states. Right away, it was phenomenal. The cover fit the lyrics perfectly. He’s the perfect fit for NAILED TO OBSCURITY.”
Where NAILED TO OBSCURITY take »Black Frost« from here is on tour. As much as the Germans enjoy the creative process and working in the studio, they are, in the end, a live band. A really good live band. They have the track record - where they were either direct support for ARCH ENEMY, PARADISE LOST, and AT THE GATES or main support for DARK TRANQUILLITY - to show for it. Additionally, NAILED TO OBSCURITY have also performed in front of thousands at festivals like Wacken Open Air, Party.San Metal Open Air, and Bloodstock Open Air. So, watch out for NAILED TO OBSCURITY! They’ll be in everywhere in 2019 in support of »Black Frost«.
1 - Black Frost
2 - Tears Of The Eyeless
3 - The Aberrant Host
4 - Feardom
5 - Cipher
6 - Resonance
7 - Road To Perdition