Review Summary: Though there is not a major departure from the formula established on Cosmogenesis, Diluvium will not disappoint the band's following with this solid outing.
Tech-Death is definitely a niche genre - there are a large number of folks who blast it for style-over-substance, and many times (The Faceless, Monstronsity, etc) there can been a pretty solid argument for that. One thing that Germany's Obscura have always done, is blend enough melody in with their technicality to give folks enough to grab on to. They're also not afraid to simplify and drop into a cozy 6/8 groove every now and then. So ultimately, this places the band in a bit of a middle ground which can be a precarious place for purveyors of such a specific subgenre with such a particular and expectant following.
I've always found Obscura to be a great entry point for folks who thought they couldn't love tech-death. Part of the reason for this, is they blend there of their key old-school influences into the fray - without even hiding them very well: Progressive-era Death (emphasis), Atheist, and Cynic. Presonally, as a huge old school fan of all three of these bands, Obscura carries the torch quite well, without feeling too derivative. On Cosmogenesis, they established what would be considered the token Obscura sound, and since then there have been 3 albums, the latest of which is 2018's Diluvium.
Sporting the identical lineup from 2016's Akroasis, the band plays off each other in tight fashion. Klausenentizer's fretless bass work remains a highlight (opening track and Emergent Evolution in particular) - calling to mind the glory days of Steve Diorgio's work on Death's Human and Individual Thought Patterns. Newer members, drummer Lanser and guitarist Trujillo reprise their roles with great efficiency - Trujillo and frontman (founding member) Krummerer are in the pocket with the trademark guitar interplay - countermelodies and lush harmonies abound.
If there were complaints made about Obscura's recent progression, it was a decrease in aggression. Clandestine Stars, Ekpyrosis, and the beastly The Conjuration combat that notion with vicious and relentless attacks. On the latter two tracks, they almost sound like a straightforward death metal band at times! Krummerer sounds as savage as ever, mixing up the vocal attack from gutterral, to mid-range, to that gorgeous vocoder Cynic-style singing effect. There are still plenty of those lush twin-guitar leads and displays of virtuosity (check out the opening to Ethereal Skies). The time signature changes, start-and-stop rhythms, and tiny guitar flourishes are all still pleasant.
Production wise, Diluvium is a bit to clean and precise for my tastes. I still think the low-end punch and rawness of Omnivium was their best mix - it carried their aggression more effectively. Akroasis was rather thin, so I guess Diluvium falls in the middle somewhere.
If there is criticism to be made here - it's that the band may be playing things a bit too safe - putting out what is expected without pushing the formula anywhere outside of it's comfort zone (although An Epilogue to Infinity slides into a reggae-type groove at one point, and there's some keyboard work in Ethereal Skies, so it is not completely without surprises). I won't go so far as to say it is redundant, because the band clearly has not exhausted everything this style can offer listeners. Those hoping for a massive departure will be disappointed, but the loyal fanbase should be playing this sucker in rapid rotation with Cosmogenesis and Omnivium.
Obscura remain the darlings of the tech-death subgenre and part of the reason for this, is they have not lost their grip of what makes a good hook. Also, compositionally-speaking, this is a techy band who know how to compose a song rather than just lumping a bunch of cool ideas together. Diluvium may not deviate far from their previous work, but when the writing and performance is this good, there probably isn't much of a reason.