Obscura, the resurrection of Death Metal!
Apr 8th 2011 Patrick Saad Band/Album Reviews

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  • Death Metal Overview

In the 90’s, death metal picked up the metal flag from the 80’s thrash movement and defined a genre that would be the basis of all what is considered to be extreme. Its earliest / finest era was led by American death metal, mainly with Floridan death metal acts such as Death, Morbid Angel, Deicide, Obituary, Atheist, Cynic, the New York Death Metal representative Cannibal Corpse and Brazilian metallers Sepultura, who actually recorded “Arise” in Florida, USA.

There’s no deny that death metal has been consistent ever since the 90’s, mainly driven by underground bands and new contributing genres such as Sweden’s melodic death metal, USA’s deathcore and the most technically challenging ‘tech death‘ genre that also flourished with its obvious representative, Necrophagist.

  • Obscura’s role in the resurrection of death metal

So where does Obscura come in all of this? Well in 2009, they released a groundbreaking album entitled “Cosmogenesis” that was praised by many as one of the most important records of the decade, a fresh breeze in today’s monotone death metal world. The German band is formed from two ex-Necrophagist members, one ex-Pestilence member and a new talent in the metal world under the name of Stephen Kummerer, guitarist / vocalist / main composer of the band.

obscura

Obscura’s music is in my opinion, the next key step in death metal after its peak with Death’s “The Sound of Perseverance” back in ’98. So what’s so special about them? It’s definitely that right dosage of technical death metal, creative song structures and overall uniqueness. All those elements are evident in songs like “Anticosmic Overload” and “Universe Momentum” from the Cosmogenesis album.

Obscura’s rhythm section is extreme to say the least: drummer Hannes Grossmann is amazingly skilled with influences ranging from major progressive metal drummers such as Neil Peart and Mike Portnoy to jazz fusion drummer Dennis Chambers. He’s known to deliver a variety of sick blast beats with remarkable cymbal work and a magnitude of odd drum patterns. Another huge factor in Obscura’s sound is the same key factor that gave Death’s “Individual Thought Patterns” back in ’93 a place amongst the most praised death metal albums of all time: insane fretless bass.

obscura-live-at-summer-breeze-2009-jeroen

Aside from his technical impressive fast work, Jeroen Thesseling pulls off some really creative and unmatched basslines with songs like “Orbital Elements“, the only instrumental on the album. He draws major influences from Flamenco and Arabic music, evident from his use of microtonality, an essential part of his unique signature bass sound.

I also must mention the impressive guitar wizardry of both Steffen Kummerer and Christian Muenzner. Their sweeps and fast melodic riffing are always the foreground of the music, leading the giant wall of sound and some of their solos and two-way melodies have 80’s written all over them while others show fusion and neoclassical influences!

  • “Omnivium” released in March 2011

How about continuity? After 2 years, Obscura release another masterpiece entitled “Omnivium” to higher recognition and appraisal by reviewers and fans alike. “Omnivium” took the band to the next level in their unique sound, with experimental song parts, mind-boggling lyrical topics such as abysmal pansophy, vortexes, a homage to Euclid, etc and top-level musicianship.

obscura-omnivium-2011

Just check out “Celestial Spheres“, a highly interesting track from the album which Steffen commented on in his own track-by-track review of the album on LoudTrax.com (check full article here): “An almost new field for our band is the song ‘Celestial Spheres’ that is inspired by piano related composition of Aziza Mustafa Zadeh and shows another influence of our whole sound“. There are few death metal musicians who have the guts to say they’re inspired by jazz musicians such as Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, an Azerbaijani composer/singer/pianist. Another song to check out is “Septiagint“, their first released single from Omnivium which kicks off the album with acoustic intro and outstanding bass work.

The most dominant musical elements on the album are neoclassical along with a ‘cosmo‘ effect, mostly credited to their Cynic influences. Old school death metallers are also kindly treated with Morbid Angel-like slow heavy riffs that are more destructive than the 250 bpm fast ones. Again, as Steffen puts it in an interview with examiner.com (check full interview here), the band chooses melody over technicality: “we really try to combine technical ability with good songwriting, strong melody and build an atmosphere. We focus very heavily on making sure that our songs have a good sense of fluidity. That is much more important to us than belting out a riff at 250 bpm…support melodies; f*** technical!!

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So here you go, an overview of Obscura, the German band who’s currently representing the progressive death metal genre. There’s no denying that there will be more masterpieces to come; hopefully the band will keep expanding their sound with each album, growing in popularity and respect amongst their musician peers and fans alike.

  • Links

Official Website

Official Facebook

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  • Karim Koreitem

    Sweet article!

    Obscura have indeed redefined technical/progressive death metal. Also, as you already pointed it out, it just fascinates me how much musical variety every band member brings in to the band. I can’t stress this enough, but Mr Jeroen Paul Thesseling is easily one of the leading metal bass players of the decade, and, not so surprisingly, he has been active in so many different styles, whether it’s jazz, flamenco or even, at an earlier age, classical!

  • ATRAIN

    Cosmogenesis is far from groundbreaking and Obscura cannot resurrect something that hasn’t died, nor will it. Get a hold of yourself.

  • Patrick

    Yea Karim, he did so well of a job that Steve DiGiorgio himself is filling his shoes in the band’s Japanese Tour due to Jeroen’s other commitment with Pestilence.

    Atrain, please do suggest some groundbreaking death metal albums released in these past few years, I’m sure there are only a handful of them and I’m positive that Obscura’s “Cosmogenesis” is right there amongst the very best.

  • ATRAIN

    You’re sure there are only a handful of them? Are you even sure that you’re into death metal?

    Anaal Nathrakh – Hell Is Empty, and All the Devils Are Here (2007)
    Cemetery Urn – Urn of Blood (2007)
    Deathevokation – The Chalice of Ages (2007)
    Dead Congregation – Graves of the Archangels (2008)
    Misery Index – Traitors (2008)
    Necrovation – Breed Deadness Blood (2008)
    Origin – Antithesis (2008)
    Behemoth – Evangelion (2009)
    Funebrarum – The Sleep of Morbid Dreams (2009)
    Ignivomous – Death Transmutation (2009)
    Impetuous Ritual – Relentless Execution of Ceremonial Excrescence (2009)
    Kalisia – Cybion (2009)
    Mumakil – Behold the Failure (2009)
    Napalm Death – Time Waits for No Slave (2009)
    Ulcerate – Everything Is Fire (2009)
    Burial Invocation – Rituals of the Grotesque (2010)
    Last but not least, Kaoteon – Veni Vidi Vomui (2011)

    Obscura are a “been there done that” Cynic/Death/Exivious/insert-proggy-death-metal wannabe band that even ripped off licks and melodies from Cynic. Meanwhile, each of the above delves and burrows into new depths of epic death metal darkness, even bringing back the old true sound of the genre and introducing new formulas at the same time, unlike the unnecessary pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-“New(Metal) Complexity” technical wankery that everyone supposedly into HIPSTER tech stuff just seems to fall for. And I don’t care about what you or Steffen have to say about Obscura’s inoffensive, castrated tech death metal. “Support melodies; f*** technical”… LOL, NONSENSE.

    And speaking of Kaoteon, I would like to comment on the following statement made in another one of your articles:

    “Local band releases with a great impact: Jay Wud / Tristmoon (now Innerguilt) / Benevolent and Kimaera.”

    InnerGuilt, really?! SHAME on you LebMetal for including such a B-grade band, but not the TRULY groundbreaking Kaoteon!

  • ATRAIN

    Not surprisingly, I didn’t see any of those in your music section. Pity, and so much for LebMetal’s appreciation of death metal!

  • Patrick

    I’m into decent death metal I suppose … Thanks for the effort by the way, I loved your enthusiasm, especially the one directed towards the local scene (or only Kaoteon I suppose). Regarding that, we are still waiting for the band’s album to be released in Lebanon (yes we do encourage the local bands by buying their CDs). Still, as a reviewer myself, I have already checked several online reviews of the album and was highly disappointed of the bad feedback it’s getting. Nevertheless, waiting for the local release …

    Regarding your list there, as I said earlier, only a handful of decent ones, in my opinion (which I hope you’d respect as I’m respecting yours in return). Most of them have grindcore elements which I find to be highly repetitive and especially not innovative. I’d personally give thumbs up for Kalisia’s “Cybion” on your list there …

    Come on, a wannabee band? Really? You linked them to 3 huge bands in the metal world; you’ve already giving them tons of credit. Plus they are no “hipster” tech stuff, whether you give a sh** or not, check the countless online reviews by professionals and fans alike.

    If you don’t care about what we say, spare us the “unnecessary pseudo-intellectual pseudo-(new)angry metal guy attitude who lacks respect and recognition towards musicians’ efforts”, please.

  • Karim Koreitem

    Steve DiGiorgio is just everywhere, I’m not really surprised!

  • ManGer

    Universe Momentum intro is godlike.

  • Slovus

    LOL. This “Atrain” guy obviously has no idea what he is talking about in the least.

    Behemoth is innovative?

    Get a fu****g grip you dumpster trash.

    GGGGGGGGGGG