Codex Obscura: HTSD Review

In the realm of death metal, there are many, many different genres. There are groups like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth, and other “symphonic” bands. There also exists a more traditional subset of death metal, occupied by the likes of bands like Alterbeast, Zenith Passage, and Origin. Holy Teachings of Self Defeat, by local Raleigh death metal artist Codex Obscura, falls into this category.

Codex Obscura has been writing songs for several years, with her first song being released in 2012. HTSD marks her first release of an EP, clocking in at just over thirty minutes. Codex Obscura is self-described as a transgender death metal artist who screams at a “defenseless microphone,” and also mixes her albums herself.

The first song, “Our Lord is One of War,” eases you into the album with a heavy introduction, but also illustrates the album’s only weakness. Before going on, note that the weakness should also be placed in perspective. Codex Obscura is a single person putting together and recording all pieces, including vocals. That said, she must rely on drum machines and triggers for the drums, which can, at times, sound overly compressed. This is overshadowed, however, by the time the song reaches its first breakdown.

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Codex Obscura manages to produce a very heavy sound, with a very well-developed sense of structure. Songs lean heavily on, yet also benefit from, an emphasis on speed and in-your-face chord work. The lyrics themselves focus on her personal experiences with a variety of subjects, most of them centered around religion and how it has contributed to issues with self-esteem and self-image. “The Fetishist” is a brutal indictment of this, a statement of what the artist goes through day-to-day. From the opening scream and strum, this song neither asks for mercy, nor gives any, blasting straight into your eardrums.

The aural assault continues in the title track “Holy Teachings of Self Defeat.” The lyrics of the title track heavily focus on the artist’s life and the effort to justify one’s existence on their own terms. A powerful track, it actively attacks views that restrict a person’s identity in the effort to self-define. Thematically speaking, many of the songs on HTSD can be compared to the trailblazing band Converge, focusing on a person’s struggle within themselves, their upbringings, and self-definition.

A full review of all of the lyrics would take quite a large amount of space, but suffice to say, this is definitely a piece of death metal worth listening to. Codex Obscura blends traditional riffs and blast beats with meaningful lyrics and powerful messages. These messages may speak to some more than to others, but anybody looking for new and heavy songs that focus on self-determination should listen to this artist. Codex Obscura is currently writing new material for her next release.

To learn more about Codex Obscura, including upcoming shows and new music, check out https://codexobscura.bandcamp.com/album/holy-teachings-of-self-defeat or https://www.facebook.com/CodexObscura/