Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Obscura - Omnivium

Relapse Records

When Munich (Germany) based progressive/technical death metal outfit Obscura released their sophomore effort ‘Cosmogenesis’ in 2009, it not only marked a major step up from their debut effort ‘Retribution (Which was originally released in 2006, and re-released in expanded form in 2010 through Relapse Records), the said album also brought the band a lot of attention from around the globe.
Now returning with their third full-length effort ‘Omnivium’, it’s a sure bet that there’s a lot of expectation and responsibility resting on the shoulders of this four piece act (Who comprise of vocalist/guitarist Steffen Kummerer, guitarist Christian Münzner, fretless bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling and drummer Hannes Grossmann). And for the most part, Obscura have well and truly lived up to those high expectations on their latest effort.
Unlike the band’s first two releases, Obscura have toned the technical elements of their song writing down a little this time around, which has made way for a greater sense of melody and dynamics to surface within their songs. But that’s not to say that the band has completely forsaken their influences of old completely, because there’s still more than enough bewildering musicianship contained in the nine songs on offer within ‘Omnivium’ to please those who consider the band the natural successor to genre defining acts such as Death, Cynic, Necrophagist and Atheist.
Opening up with an intricate acoustic guitar introduction, ‘Septuagint’ soon builds in tempo before the band launches into a frantic mix of intertwining guitar, bass and drum movements that combine to make up Obscura’s technical/death metal sound. While there’s major differences between this song and those produced on ‘Cosmogenesis’, there are a few noticeable changes worth taking note of. The production does appear to be a little cleaner this time around (Which allows the guitar and bass to stand out a little more), while the sparingly used clean vocals, clean/melodic lead breaks and the overall groove based passages to present listeners with enough changes to reinforce the notion that Obscura had indeed progressed.
Both the fast paced ‘Vortex Omnivium’ and the aggressive ‘Euclidean Elements’ (Which features a guest lead guitar contribution from Sadist/Morgana guitarist Tommy Talamanca) are primarily rooted in the style and song writing direction offered on ‘Cosmogenesis’, while ‘Ocean Gateways’ sits somewhere on the other end of the spectrum with its strong and crushing bass driven groove, which brings to mind elements of Morbid Angel at their slowest and sludgiest.
From here, Obscura delve into more progressive sounding territory, with ‘Prismal Dawn’ leading the charge with the clean/manipulated clean vocals and varying blend of tempos and textures throughout. Taking things one step further in terms of melody are ‘Celestial Spheres’ and ‘Velocity’ (Which features a guest solo from Dark Fortress/Noneuclid guitarist Morean), both of which sees the band experiment more with clean vocal passages and complex musical pieces that push the progressive aspect of the death metal sound to the extreme. Not surprisingly, both tracks are definite favourites on the album.
The mostly instrumental piece ‘A Transcendental Serenade’ (I say mostly, because there are a couple of clean sung lines towards the end) allows the band to indulge a little more into the progressive metal more than death metal on a musical level (Although Grossmann’s double kick blasts gives the track its extremities), while the closer ‘Aevum’ finishes the album in a far more aggressive and death metal fashion.
Although the changes are minimal, there’s enough progression with ‘Omnivium’ to prove that Obscura has moved onward and upwards since their last release. And while some fans may cry foul of the band’s growing progressive and melodic elements, those who always longed for something beyond mere technicality in an Obscura release will be richly rewarded with the release of ‘Omnivium’.

For more information on Obscura, check out - http://www.myspace.com/realmofobscura

© Justin Donnelly