Review Summary: It is the sectional contrasts and the brilliant mixture of ferocity and melody that elevates Obscura above other tech-death outfits.
Technical death metal has always been pretty divisive with me with most of it eventually falling by the wayside over time. The reason is simple. While conveying the most depraved acts and thoughts through devastatingly brutal music has its charm, presenting that imagery amidst a technical, auditory assault at 900 mph causes it to lose most of its impact on me. This leaves me with only the occasional tech-death craving. On its sophomore effort, Cosmogenesis, Obscura has created the perfect mix of Cynic, Death, and Necrophagist that scratches my technical death metal itch, however infrequent it may be, perfectly.
Hitting with all the subtlety of a sharp blow to the groin, "The Anticosmic Overload" and "Choir of Spirits" are beasts of technical wizardry with complex, melodic riffing, dizzying bass flourishes, and some groovy passages interwoven throughout.
Though, it really isn't until "Universe Momentum" makes its entrance that things truly start to fall into place for the band. Obscura has the uncanny ability to seamlessly combine blast beats, frenzied fretwork, and sections of gorgeously melodic soloing with acoustic sections and spacey instrumental passages all structured around various time signatures and tempo changes. This is largely attributable to the way guitarist Christian Muenzner, formerly of Necrophagist, perfectly moves from Death-styled riffing to more melodic Necrophagist-styled soloing. "Incarnated" is the best example of this and contains a wonderful section of guitar solos perched atop fretless bass slides and creates a truly unique moment.
The instrumental "Orbital Elements" continues the excellence with its acoustic beginning slowly melting away and revving up into outbursts of technical melodies by the bass and guitars. This brings me to the jazzy, fretless bass work of Jereon Paul Thesseling, formerly of Pestilence (Spheres era), which is really top-notch and audibly accessible throughout. His presence adds another dimension to the band's sound and one more tool used to perfection.
The track "Noospheres" screams Cynic from the onset, complete with use of a voccoder, and is a more "reigned in" effort in terms of brutality, though the melodic lead work still persists. "Centric Flow" contains more up-tempo, blast beat filled viciousness with some mid-tempo grooviness and, of course, the requisite technicality before brewing up and closing out the album in true epic fashion. It is the sectional contrasts and the brilliant mixture of ferocity and melody that elevates Obscura above other tech-death outfits.
Overall, Cosmogenesis is not the most brutal technical death metal album to be released, but it is this "softer" approach, if it can even be called that, that will probably make me reach for this more often than other albums of the subgenre. Also, like most technical death metal albums, Cosmogenesis contains a great deal of music to digest. A complete appreciation of everything presented on the album may take several listens to obtain, but such an effort will be met with great rewards. Fans of technical death metal or those willing to give the subgenre another shot will not be disappointed.