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Obscura - Diluvium Award winner

by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 02 July 2018, 7:17 AM

Founded in 2002 by guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer, German progressive death metal band OBSCURA caused a stir when they - out of nowhere - toured as support for the legendary Suffocation on the band's European tour in 2006 and independently released their debut album 'Retribution' that same year. From its very beginnings, the band has demonstrated an uncanny ability for blending different forms of technical, cerebral metal into a coherent synthesis of death, thrash and black metal merged with progressive elements. Today, we are reviewing their latest effort, “Diluvium,” the final album in a four album concept series, and contains eleven new tracks.

“Clandestine Stars” leads off what is beyond a doubt a highly technical assault. In under four minutes, it pulverizes you and gets the blood pumping through your veins. Several time meters are employed, and the riffs vary throughout. Bass guitar can be one thing that is oft missing in the mix of a Metal album, but not here. Linus adeptly picks and slaps those notes and it is as important at the guitars in the outing of the song. “Emergent Evolution” is a bit longer, opening with subtle atmosphere and beauty, before they drop the hammer. In addition to the dazzling display of musicianship, we have sublime Progressive elements featured here, and the combination of harsh and clean vocals with glittering guitar work really make for a melodious and memorable affair. The title track is a raucous burner with short, staccato attacks in the instruments and vocals. They carve out a nice line of melody that runs over top the relentless battery. I would be remiss without also mentioning the fantastic time keeping that drummer Sebastian Lanser holds down here…it is astonishing.

“Mortification of the Vulga” is a six minute piece that opens with some ethereal elements before settling into a heavy groove.  The pace is slower, allowing the track to crush more skulls deeper into the earth as it moves along. Once again, melody works in unison above the madness. It’s all about that flowing trench that the rhythm lays down here. Quite unexpectedly, a charming instrumental passage enters after the half way mark. It dances along with spirit and flair. Steffan and Rafael’s guitar and vocal work here is diverse and alluring. “Ethereal Skies” is a captivating song that really has a wide sound. DREAM THEATER meets BEYOND CREATION perhaps? There are moments of deep breaths of melody, combined with technical ravishment that tickle your fancy in a variety of different ways. Sure, the musicianship is undeniably tight, but the liveliness that flows from the melodies are equally as important.

“Convergence” opens with a brief clean guitar passage that leads to an energetic sound complete with some clean harmonized vocals to go along with the intense harsh vocals. Linus’ bass lines are once again prominently displayed in the flurry of guitar and drum work. It closes as it entered, with delicate clean guitars and the weightless feeling of space. “Ekpyrosis” is a Stoic belief in the periodic destruction of the cosmos by a great conflagration every Great Year. The cosmos is then recreated (“palingenesis”) only to be destroyed again at the end of the new cycle.” The song is structured with all the ingredients that you would need to visualize this, along with the chaos necessary to complete it. “The Seventh Aeon” is a little less dramatic, from a fabric that is more linear and accessible to digest. The technical elements are still very much present, but this song has a more open and airy sound on the melancholic side.

“The Conjuration” is a deeper and more furious track, fueled by raging kick drum and fast moving guitars and bass. The chord progressions are fascinating here, often going in directions that you might not expect but remain pleasing to the ear. “An Epilogue to Infinity” follows at first a riff in a low key with some meter manipulation. Not content to rest on that the entire time however, there are some supporting passages of melodious guitars that spire above, while the vocals burn with anger. Keep on your toes in this number, as it shifts often and effortlessly in different directions. “A Last Farwell” closes the album. It’s a dark and suspenseful instrumental of mostly bass guitar. Some of the upper notes he plays sound like the bleating of a jazz trombone.

In the Metal industry, this is a fairly well known band. Whether or not you have heard them, and already have opinions on their past releases, let this album play as if you have never heard the band before. I am not saying that it is different than past works, but I just think it needs to be appreciated for its own merits and not based on what the band has done in the past. What this particular album does so well is combine the perfect and often seemingly impossible timing of Technical Metal, with all of the nuances, melody, musicianship and shifting meters of Progressive Metal, all with sublime doses of melody and one of the most diverse offering of sounds within the genre that I have heard in a while.

Songwriting: 10
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 10

5 Star Rating

1. Clandestine Stars
2. Emergent Evolution
3. Diluvium
4. Mortification of the Vulga
5. Ethereal Skies
6. Convergence
7. Ekpyrosis
8. The Seventh Aeon
9. The Conjuration
10. An Epilogue to Infinity
11. A Last Farewell
Steffen Kummerer – Vocals & Guitars
Rafael Trujillo – Guitars
Linus Klausenitzer – Bass
Sebastian Lanser – Drums
Record Label: Relapse Records


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Edited 26 October 2020

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