02. Vortex Omnivium
03. Ocean Gateways
04. Euclidean Elements
05. Prismal Dawn
06. Celestial Spheres
08. A Transcendental Serenade
This is it. The album that all progressive/technical/whatever death metal fans have been waiting for. They are, in my opinion, one of the most important bands in death metal right now. Most bands of their ilk either try to be as old school as possible and end up with a dated sound, or they try to be extremely modern which just sounds manufactured and unnatural. Looking at it from another angle, most bands either try to simplify their sound and end up being boring, or they try to go over the top and you can just feel that they’re trying too hard. Obscura are none of these; their sound is the future of death metal, because they acknowledge the old greats while innovating, and they are very intricate and complicated whilst at the same time comprehensible and not ridiculously flamboyant. I dare say that Omnivium is the perfection of their sound. But what does that mean?
Omnivium opens with “Septuagint,” and it’s immediately obvious that the production here is top notch; Jeroen Paul Thesseling’s fretless six string bass is clearly audible. Steffen Kummerer and Christian Muenzer are wizards on the (occasionally seven string) guitar – every note they play is crisp and audible and the counterpoints they play to each other’s lines are memorable and sound great together. Kummerer’s vocals are as before: a high rasp that is at times reminiscent of Death‘s Chuck Schuldiner, spicing it up with lows and clean vocals enhanced by a vocoder a la Cynic. Hanness Grossmann is a machine on the drums; even though his lines usually aren’t as memorable as the other members’ playing, his stamina and speed make up for it. The only complaint I have regarding the production is that the snare tone is bad, but it isn’t intrusive so that is a minor issue.
This is very progressive and technical stuff, but at the same time completely accessible. I know some death metal fans might scoff at that, but I believe that’s a good thing. It’s very hard to write music that is both technical and listenable. Almost every single band ditches one in favor of the other, but Obscura clearly don’t intend to do that.
At times Obscura makes me wonder if they’re possessed by the spirit of Chuck Schuldiner, such as in tracks like “Celestial Spheres,” which bursts into a flurry of riffs right away. If you’ve ever heard of Obscura before, you’ll know what to expect, and that’s generally true for the entire album, because while the sound here is very refined and well-developed, there isn’t anything really new. Most of the album sounds like Cosmogenesis: Part 2. I don’t say this to mean that Cosmogenesis is better (that’s debatable), but there isn’t much improvement in the band’s sound other than refinement of what they already did – at least that’s what you think until you hear “Velocity”. This song starts off with seven string guitars, and then goes into a section that is – what, black metal? It experiments with a slower pace leaving space in the sound, trying to create an ambience. Halfway through, the song goes into a quiet break with minimal instrumentation, and there’s an impressive guitar solo that builds up as the rest of the song flows through. It provides an interesting contrast to their normal modus operandi that could be worth exploring on future releases.
So; it’s great. The guitars are so well written that I want to give up writing songs, and the playing matches the composition in terms of proficiency. The drums are somewhat uninspired in their composition, but impressively played. The bass guitar is always surprising and great – not sitting behind the guitars, but making its presence known in the front row as another critical piece of the sound. The vocals cite the Friedrich Schelling influenced lyrics while trying to not get repetitive by doing different styles. The sound of the band is incredibly refined, their composition is perfectly balanced, but at times the songs lack memorability.
This album has anything an active music listener can ever want, and then some. No matter what minimal criticism I’ve offered, this album is a must buy – an essential piece in every death metal fan’s collection. It’s not perfect, but it’s so close that you shouldn’t care.
Obscura – Omnivium gets..