There is nothing about The Palms of Sorrowed Kings that betrays Obsequiae’s Midwestern, Minnesotan roots. The album cover features a gothic logo and a gorgeous, picturesque image of a medieval ruin in serene disrepair.
It seems like an extension of 2015’s critically lauded Aria of Vernal Tombs, which paired the austere logo with an abandoned church yard. This time, the group pans out and looks at the landscape swallowing the past. Looking at the big picture is what Obsequiae do best this time around, with stunning results.
Gentle passages led by medieval harps serve as buffers that introduce and segue between soaring, lush, blackened monuments. In other, less capable hands, these musings often become ham-fisted and trite, like Renfaire Punch and Judy shows or overly orchestrated, sapping the power from the proceedings.
But there is nothing mawkish about how the bassline of “In the Garden of Hyacinths” perfectly fuses Tanner Anderson’s breathy whispers to shimmering riffs; there is nothing effete about “Emanations before the Pythiav” no matter the female vocal accompaniment or how ornate the melody is.
Aside from dwelling in power metal themes without any of the genre’s self-importance, Obsequiae also prove to be eminently capable of placating prog metal fans yet never succumb to self-indulgence. Eoghan McCloskey’s Neil Peart-inspired artistry drives the title track, and Anderson’s solos throughout the band’s third album show an appreciation for music theory and craft, but none of this detracts from the atmosphere. On the driving “Asleep in the Bracken,” the superb musicianship is actually essential for building the intense crescendo.
After the success of Aria of Vernal Tombs, Obsequiae shouldn’t be sneaking up on anyone. Yet The Palms of Sorrowed Kings is such a magical, breathtaking recording, it doesn’t matter that the band had already invented baroque metal. This time they perfected it.