Slowing down is always a risky business. For the uninitiated, ERADIKATOR are one of the UK's best and most respected contemporary thrash metal bands. With two excellent albums under their collective cummerbund, the Brits have been proudly flying the flag for a beefy and bruising but fervently melodic strain of thrash: a rather thankless task in their homeland, it has to be said, where the underground metal scene is routinely overshadowed by ostensibly more exotic fare from mainland Europe and the US. In fact, the music they have made up until this point has been both crushing and accessible, but like spiritual forebears XENTRIX, ERADIKATOR would almost certainly be a lot bigger were they from just about anywhere else. Consequently, you could be forgiven for thinking that "Obscura" is a cynical grab for wider appeal, given that it arrives proclaiming a significant drop in overall pace, a trimming of obvious thrash tropes, and, that old classic, a greater focus on songwriting. Let's face it, there are plenty of historical examples of once ferocious bands that took their foot off the accelerator, particularly in the wake of METALLICA's Black Album, and it hasn't always worked out very well for the protagonists concerned. Here, perhaps, is one key advantage to being an underground band: for most people, "Obscura" will be a first chance to check ERADIKATOR out, and regardless of changes to their sound, it is an album that fizzes with all the freshness and verve of a debut. Where many have slowed down and veered off course, ERADIKATOR have simply evolved into something far more interesting.
It's an album full of great songs, but also of exhilarating moments. There are few riffs that you might pick out as traditional thrash, but that hasn't removed an ounce of heaviness from ERADIKATOR's attack: the lurching crunch of "Revolve" is arguably their heaviest moment to date, while the woozy blues of "I Want To Believe" builds up a phenomenal head of scabrous space rock steam, underpinned by unmistakably Sabbathian heft. Elsewhere, "Obscura" provides an object lesson in how to write straight-ahead but substantial heavy metal songs. "Poisoned To Sorrow" is an artfully moody thing, with a killer chorus and a whiff of PARADISE LOST in that persistent rhythmic thud. Similarly, "Bound To You" is unapologetic in its succinct simplicity, but it's a fantastic song with a huge heart. As an added bonus, overt progressive hues suggest that the likes of "Hourglass" and red-eyed closer "The Siren Song" are merely the start of this band's musical explorations. Coupled with a fierce but full production that highlights what a tight and intuitive band ERADIKATOR have become, the abandonment of a well-worn formula now seems like a master stroke.
There is also a beautiful moment of respite midway through the muscular squall of "Haunting" where ERADIKATOR break into some sublime LIZZY-esque twin-leads: it's a knowing nod to the classic metal era, but it's an element that truly belongs here because "Obscura" is a record informed by the questing spirit of metal's architects. It will still crush you like a bug, of course, but heavy metal's hidden depths are here for the taking too.