Review Summary: 2009's greatest M3TAL record bar none. German bred tech death stalwarts Obscura conjure the spirits of Death, Opeth, Cynic, and Necrophagist to create an early contender for best M3TAL record of 2009.
Forming a tech metal band with two former members of Necrophagist and one of Pestilence is a sure fire way to develop a high profile in the metal community. And that is exactly what Obscura have done. The band formed in Germany around 2002 with a desire to play technical death metal. Other than this quaint little piece of information I found off of lastfm, the only other thing I know about the band is that they were thrust into the limelight at a very early age providing direct support for Suffocation. After their latest gem of an album “Cosmogenesis” Obscura pretty much deserve everything and anything thrown in their way.
Do you like Symbolic era Death? Necrophagist? Opeth perhaps? Would you also like a smidgeon of Cynic thrown in the pot for good measure? If this sounds like a pretty potent mix then look no further. Picture the speed of Necrophagist blending with the precision of Death, the weirdness of Cynic, and the progressive rock element of Opeth. The influence of these bands is too uncanny for my incompetence to try and explain. However, Obscura are far more than just a rip-off of the greats. They are a highly creative outfit that brings a whole new meaning to technical death metal. This album features a great usage of dynamics often shifting between slow, spacey instrumentals to rapid fire blast beating in a moments flat. Time signatures run the course between unpredictable and uneasy never giving the listener too much time to sit back and relax. Guttural vocals soon enter with some jazzy bass tapping providing backup before erupting into a serene Opethian like interlude. And I’m only starting to chip away at the surface folks. If you like what you see, keep on reading. This means you Gerard Butler.
Considering this was my first experience to Obscura I didn’t know what to expect from the musicianship. What I learned is that Obscura want to throw everything in your face, yet remaining cohesive. Starting with guitars. Christian Muenzner, ex Necrophagist fame, delivers a calculated six stringing assault to the senses shifting between Shuldiner inspired riffing and the Necrophgaist brand of shred. I must say his abilities as a guitar player are not to be underestimated. It’s clear he understands the importance of strong song writing because his performance never stops at one particular format, he keeps on bringing new ideas to the mix. He’ll give you some shredding solos, some tech riffing so catchy it should be a crime, some killer harmonies and hell, the track Orbital Elements is basically driven by acoustic guitar and off kilter bass line. Which brings to mind my next point. Jeroen Paul Thesseling, ex Pestilence, is a dynamic bass player that excels at manipulating tempo changes with creativity. His presence is quite prominent and at times dominating the guitar in terms of explosiveness. The vocals, a shade less creative than bass and guitar respectively are still handled relatively well by Steffen Kummerer. He seems to favor the lower pitched death growl as his weapon of choice yet never hesitant to reach the higher strain. Both sound great, especially the lower pitched growls because they don’t reach the obnoxiousness or lameness of “cough” Deicide cough” Six Feet’ Under. I shouldn’t have been surprised but damn it I was completely caught off guard by the vocoder in Noospheres. The opening just screams Cynic so fail on my part. Drumming, handled by another ex Necrophagist legion in Hannes Grossmann fills the skinsman role effectively and professionally. His blast beating technique is so nimble and so punishing I feel like a hammer is being taken to my skull and bashed in repeatedly there is nothing left but a soggy mass of brain matter. The double bass and drum fills leave a similar effect.
Songwriting is extremely varied in scope and displays what Obscura is best at. Binding different elements and a mix of genres together is a tricky thing to pull off but Obscura have proved they are talented and experienced enough to make it all come together in a cohesive structure. Stand out tracks are plenty, and it’s hard to pick out my favorites from the ten impressive offerings displayed but I will have to go with “Incarnated” and the epic closing track “Centric Flow” as my top choices. As for the album, I personally see no flaws with it although perfection in itself is an impossibility. Regardless, this album has the appeal and the sonic power to garner a large fan base on sputnik. So to those who like technical death metal, Opeth, Cynic, and Cynic, I urge you to give this a spin. This is my favorite album of 2009 hands down and I would be hard-pressed to find any other metal record just as or even more impressive after this.