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Obscura are a band that has stood out from the crowded genre of technical death metal. Although their debut 'Retribution' was something of a cold opener that did little to distinguish them, their second record 'Cosmogenesis' was, and still is, one of the most well-regarded tech death albums of the new millennium. Although this very polished, blistering style of music has rarely piqued my interest, Obscura justifies their technical display by putting intelligence into the songwriting, and makes for one of the style's stronger experiences.
Although they are from Germany, Obscura takes most of their influence from American death metal bands, not least the legendary Death, as well as Cynic. Frontman Steffen Kummerer is evidently influenced by Chuck Schuldiner, many of the riffs and song structures reflect what Death was doing around the time of 'Individual Thought Patterns'. Obscura have polished that sound into something much more modern and complex however. 'Cosmogenesis' is defined by lots of dual guitar work, with one guitar playing a riff and the second guitar going at something equally as technical. From a compositional perspective, the music is very complex and dense. Despite relatively conventional song lengths, and even such 'pedestrian' elements as chorus structures, Obscura rarely lets up their onslaught of fast paced riffs, complicated drums and jazzy bass lines. Steffen's vocals typically evoke a fairly generic death growl, and while there are some Cynic-like vocorder clean singing to give a bit of variety, the vocal aspect of Obscura is definitely not their high point.
Obscura's 'Cosmogenesis' is the first album in a tentative four album concept piece, and seeing as this Obscura is an almost completely different lineup than the one heard on 'Retribution', this is the band's defacto debut. As good as 'Cosmogenesis' is however, the music still feels somewhat conventional for technical death metal. Particularly in regards to the cold, mechanical production, Obscura are not yet a full head above their competition at this point. Regardless, Obscura obviously have technical chops beyond most in metal, but what makes them stand out is their intelligence and complex composition. It's easy to play fast, but Obscura steps up to the plate and delivers a calibre of songwriting that justifies their technical abilities.
This album is a prime example of why technical death metal is superior to most other metal genres. That's normally not something I would say, considering most tech death bands (like Brain Drill) are just over-the-top and annoying with their technicality, and others just aren't heavy or interesting (like Decrepit Birth). But every once in a while, a really, really great tech death band will come along and blow my mind. So far, those bands have been Deeds of Flesh, Abysmal Dawn, The Faceless (post-Akeldama), and now Obscura. Cosmogenesis is Obscura's second full-length album, released last year on Relapse Records, and... wow. Just...
The album starts off with "The Anticosmic Overload", probably one of the weakest songs on the album, yet still awesome, and yet it's the only song a video was made for... don't see how that works, but... I supposed it worked. It was (don't get me wrong) a great start to the album, but nothing particularly stands out about it, aside from the bass (which I'll delve into here in a moment). The riffs and solos here are great and prove this song to be a very nice appetizer for the meal that awaits. After the next song we come to "Universe Momentum", one of the better songs on the record, one that brings in quite a bit of random acoustic moments, which, upon mixed with the bass, sound very jazzy, and at other times remind me of Stormblast-era Dimmu Borgir, minus the black metal vocals. Overall, an awesome fucking song, one of the highlights of the album. Next up, we have "Incarnated". This is my personal favorite song on the album, but I'll talk more about it later, because a great deal of it revolves around the bass guitar. Right now, I'll just say that "Incarnated" is very dark and atmospheric, and flows quite nicely in with the next track, "Orbital Elements". This song is an instrumental that is very reminiscent of "The Call of Ktulu" by Metallica, which isn't a bad thing. Pretty much, you mix elements of "The Call of Ktulu", a little bit of "Hundred Wrathful Deities", (the Evile song released the same year), and a lot of Planetary Duality-era The Faceless, and you get "Orbital Elements". This is one of those tracks that stands out from the others. Skipping over "Desolate Spheres", we get to see the vocoder again in the songs "Infinite Rotation" and "Nospheres". "Nospheres" is one song that shows a slower, darker side to the album, (not that it wasn't already dark). Next, we come to the title track, which is probably the heaviest song here. It's not particularly "heavy", but it does incorporate more chugging riffs that'll get your head banging. Very awesome song. Finally, we come to another highlight of the album, the closing song, "Centric Flow". This song is actually pretty weak (once again, nothing really wrong with it, just nothing that really stands out), up until the halfway point, when it starts getting really amazing. That's around the time when the melody begins to kick in, and we hear an almost... well... I hate to say this when it comes to metal, but... a beautiful acoustic and melodic solo section, very reminicient of "Perennial Quest" from Death. After this we come to another melodic riff, in which we can hear the vocalist rasp "THIS IS... THIS IS... THIS IS THE CENTRIC FLOW!", in a way that sent a chill down my spine. An amazing end to an amazing album.
One of the things that turned me on to this band (and ultimately this album) was the video for "The Anticosmic Overload", in which I witnessed something I had never seen before... a bassist who uses a 6-string fretless bass. A special bass that can be heard throughout the album, (that's right, you can hear the bass throughout 100% of the album), and gives Obscura an awesome style that so far hasn't been topped by any other band I've heard. For a fretless bass, I'm astounded at how extremely well the bassist plays it. Flawlessly. Perfectly. And it sounds purely incredible. The single-most awesome song on the album (made awesome by the bass and the riffs), is "Incarnated", a song that has a melodic edge to it, but a dark verse that features what is probably the coolest bass pattern in any metal song period. The bass goes a completely different route than the guitar, creating a mesmerizing, definitely Area 51 themed sound. It's pretty awesome to experience. We're dealing with one of the most talented bassists in metal here. We should be honored.
Now I'll shut up about the bass already and move on to the guitars themselves. The great production plays a key part here, as every single note is perfectly audible. The guitarists here aren't just playing around. They know what they're doing and why they're doing it. You can go from a faster, more technical side, such as in "The Anticosmic Overload" and "Desolate Spheres", to a slower, heavier, more dark, mystic side, in songs like "Nospheres" and the title track "Cosmogenesis". Of couse, as I've mentioned before, there are plenty of acoustic, jazzy, and creepy interludes like those in "Universe Momentum" and "Infinite Rotation". The riffs and solos throughout the album are incredible, but I'd have to say the most memorable is the last half of "Centric Flow", obviously the most melodic, phenomenal moments on this record.
I'm not much of a drumming expert, but I will say that the drummer knows what to do when. Of course, this is a key factor to all forms of metal, when to play fast, when to slow down, when to build up, and when to go all out crazy. This guy knows what he's doing, along with the rest of the band.
And finally, I want to briefly talk about the vocals. Throughout the record you'll hear a wide range of vocal styles, ranging from an almost black metal rasp that reminds me of David Vincent on the first two Morbid Angel albums, to a Symbolic-era Chuck Shuldiner style. His lows remind me very much of Demon Carcass from The Faceless in their album Planetary Duality, as do the vocoder sections in "Choir of Spirits" and "Nospheres", the latter having a vocoder outtro that sounds very much like the outtro to "The Ancient Covenant" by The Faceless. At some points, he'll even use a clean vocal style (no, don't worry, nothing even remotely like the screamo clean vocals that sound like they haven't gone through puberty yet), these clean vox sound matured and very fitting with the music, just adding to the pure amazing-ness that is this album.
Highlights: The whole thing, really. The only songs that aren't up there with the rest are "Choir of Spirits" and "Desolate Spheres", and even those songs are fucking awesome. The record gets a well-deserved 100%, and plenty of future listens.
In my opinion, this album sounds like a mix between The Faceless' 2008 album Planetary Duality and Death's 1995 album Symbolic. And to me, this album is right up-to-par with Symbolic as one of the best metal albums ever written. I know that may be a bit of an overstatement to some, but... just go buy it and give it a listen. You'll know what I mean.
One of the main stigmas often associated with technical death metal is the allegation of "wankery"; that is, compromising song-writing in the name of showcasing instrumental prowess. Does every techdeath band do it? No. Does it happen at all within techdeath? That is merely a matter of interpretation, opinion and personal bias. I, for one, see not a single but of it in Obscura's sophomore offering, "Cosmogenesis."
The album opens with "The Anticosmic Overload", which serves as somewhat of a template for what is to come (note that I say "somewhat"). The song has plenty of Jeroen Paul Thesseling's fretless bass riffs, Hannes's incredible drumming we saw on Necrophagist's Epitaph album, Steffen's mix of scream and growl vocals, and Christian Muenzner's guitar work (which is significantly different on this album than it was on Necrophagist's Epitaph, namely because he wrote the solos, and not Muhammed). That's where the beginning ends.
Cosmogenesis offers both the expected and the unexpected. On one hand, it's exactly what you'd expect from a 21st Century techdeath band; complex instrumental sections, harsh vocals and shredding solos. On the other, it throws in a wide variety of things you wouldn't expect from Obscura's brand of metal. Two songs ("Choir of Spirits" and "Noosphere") utilize a vocoder - like Paul from Cynic does - and there's even a song when Steffen does some actual clean singing ("Infinite Rotation"). There are sections with acoustic guitars ("Universe Momentum" and "Centric Flow"), and even one song where there is a full 30 seconds of jazz fusion music ("Desolate Spheres"). They even included an instrumental in the mix - "Orbital Elements."
The songs themselves all range from aggressive, fast-paced death metal ("Universe Momentum" and the title track) to more feeling-oriented songs ("Incarnated" and "Noosphere"). Despite their incredibly technical instrument sections, the songs all retain simple, easy to catch structures akin to the usual verse-chorus style that everyone and their dog is used to in music.
In regards to production quality, it's relatively clean. Not so clean as it ended up making the guitars sound like they were done on a MIDI track (cough EPITAPH cough), but it's not as distorted as most death metal bands would have it be. To me, the snare drum in particular sounded a bit too clean, like a "pop" noise every time Hannes struck it. The bass is perfectly audible when it needs to be (eg; when Jeroen plays something deviating from the rhythm guitar), which is exactly how all bass should be if you ask me. Considering the material on this album, the production was perfect.
All in all, Cosmogenesis is an instant keeper. If you were to mix post-1990 Death (especially with Steffen's banshee screams) with Atheist and Necrophagist, you'd get this album. This is exactly how progressive death metal should sound; heavy, atmospheric, technical, and with a strong vocal performance.
Favorites: All of them!
There are tech death metal albums that will have you cringing at the brutality and then there are tech death metal albums that will have you scratching your head as you wonder how they did that. Obscura falls firmly into the latter category, a maze of carefully colliding arpeggios and flowing speed. I like to think of this as the Death album that could have been if Chuck had hired members of Necrophagist to back him up, as the vocals are comparable and it shares the same cosmic/philosophical theme to its lyrics.
As for the mention of Necrophagist, it's no surprise that guitarist Christian Muenzner and drummer Hannes Grossman were members of that other super tech German entity until the past few years. This blazing sophomore album easily surpasses anything from that other band though, for not only can you appreciate its virtuosity, but they also write some fine riffs of the simpler variety. In fact, the dizzying technicality isn't even the forte of this album, it's the solid offering of memorable riffs. Rounding out the band's lineup are Jeroen Thesseling (once in Pestilence) and Steffen Kummerer on vocals/guitars (from some pretty good bands like Black Horizons and Festering Saliva).
This is a consistent sophomore offering, and better than the debut Retribution from a few years back. Tracks like the opener "Anticosmic Overload" will dazzle fans of progressive death metal with their insanely adventurous bass lines and rhythmic classically inspired picking. As for myself I prefer the tracks with really catchy melodic hooks. "Incarnated" has a pretty intense volley of these, as does the slower "Orbital Elements". If you want to simply get knocked on the floor while your head spins like a top, you will likely appreciate displays of insanity like the title track and the album's excellent closer "Centric Flow".
Cosmogenesis is an impressive statement, whether you subscribe for the band's latent musical proficiency or you just want a pretty kick ass death metal album. It is very possible this will transform them into THE go-to European band of this category, and with just reason. The album sounds superb and the amount of effort into creating such a work is evident. But beyond the obvious skills showcased here, the songs are memorable enough to warrant a recommendation.
If you ever watch TV it's likely you've seen or at least seen the commercial for a romantic comedy. You know they always have a particular formula that seems to be followed in every single movie? Well, such is the case with Obscura's newest effort, "Cosmogenesis". It's basically your everyday technical/melodic death metal album that lacks the majority of the elements typically used in death metal. These guys have released the EXACT same album you have heard so many other times by so many other much better bands, by taking elements from different bands and mixing them together.
They have Atheist's jazz influence, they have Decrepit Birth's brutal growls, they have Cynic's vocoder, they have Necrophagist's shredding guitar solos, they have In Flames's melodic guitar riffs, the bass is very high in the mix similar to Cryptopsy, etc. I don't listen to a lot of tech death so I can't paint a perfect picture for you, but this is basically the gyst of what they are doing. In addition, everything is very sloppily done, as if they only wrote this to show everyone how fucking awesome they are. The vocals are forced death growls and weak highs, and the guitar solos are just sweep picked passages without real purpose. While I usually appreciate the bassist being higher in the mix, here he is too high, to the point that he distracts from what is really going on. The song "Orbital Elements" reminds me of Primus at times because of this. The drums are nothing special, because it seems like EVERY tech death drummer is a fucking robot. He doesn't really shine at all here anyway.
Of the positive moments, I think think the opening song is pretty good, and the song "Incarnated" is moderate. I'll also admit the song "Choir of Spirits" has a pretty cool sounding solo. Beware of the tech moments like "Desolate Spheres" where the band pretends they are a real death metal band by doing fast and unmelodic riffage behind blast beats and growled vocals. It still sounds forced though, and by the annoying pinch harmonic riffage in "Infinite Rotation" you'll be ready to turn this off. After the instrumental track, "Orbital Elements" you'll realize that nothing after it is worth hearing really. Every song sounds the same exept for "Noospheres" which is a fucking stupid name for a stupid song.
Don't buy this. This album fucking sucks. Decrepit Birth is the way to go for good modern day tech death.
Obscura's 'Cosmogenesis' is one of those albums that takes a while to actually enjoy, because of it's extremely technical nature, but grows on you in due time. The first thing I noticed about this band was how good the bass player was. Holy shit, this guy is an absolute beast. Any death metal bassists out there need something to learn? Well this band is what you're looking for. Another thing I noticed was the sound of the bass, which is like nothing I’ve ever heard in death metal. (Except for Steve DiGiorgio on Death's 'Individual Thought Patterns') He plays a 6-stringed fretless bass that sounds outstanding, and really accentuates and differentiates itself from the music, which is cool and different, but adds to the cons of this album:
The bass is simply too audible, and even at times drowns the music out. (Maybe it's just like that because I’m a bass player..) Even during guitar solos, he continues to play extremely complicated baselines, which draw your attention away from the guitar solo, which is supposed to be the point of interest. The vocals are very standard death metal vocals, nothing to special. If you can actually delve into the music and just listen to the guitar, the riffs are great, but like I said before, the bass is to loud.
On the plus side, the musicianship in this album is great. Not your standard technical death metal album. There is alot of groove to it, and you can actually headbang at a steady rate with most of the riffs, but still contains an element of technicality, without taking anything away from the music.
Some great songs on this album include: Anticosmic Overload, Orbital Elements and Cosmogenesis. None of the song on this album are bad as such, but some seem to be filler tracks (which is expected on a band's 2nd album) Like I mentioned before, if you're a good bassplayer with fast fingers and need something to learn, this band is great, otherwise I don't imagine it phasing anyone else.
2009 has not been a great year for metal. The new Suffocation is ok and there have been a few exciting releases(I have yet to check out the new Augury), but overall it hasn't exactly been a banner year for metal, except for this release.
I had never heard of Obscura until a few months ago. I checked out Cosmogenesis and was immediately blown away. These dudes have their shit together and have developed a sound that is, although not completely unique, a very fresh take on an oversaturated genre.
Technical death metal can get tedious when it concentrates more on the technical than the death metal, but here we have a band whose compositions are structured in a way that you can actually remember them after less than ten listens, and yet which retain the technical prowess and musical approach of the tech/death genre. This is in fact a very melodic album with bits that are not heavy at all. In today's death metal scene the sheer inclusion of melody can almost be deemed a progressive element since it so uncommon among modern death shredders. The fusion between beauty and brutality in this release is very interesting and I found it captivated me as much during my first listen as it has during my last.
Cosmogenesis is packed with polyphonies, great lead work and and incredible rythm section. Hannes Grossmann, the drum phenom and Jeroen Paul Thesseling weave in between the maelstrom of the guitars and create quite a soundscape that does more than just accompany. In many ways they lay the groundwork for Muenzer and Kummerer to do their thing. Tracks such as the opener and single "Anticosmic Overload" and "Universe Momentum" are choc-full of catchy yet thoughtful riffs and passages reminiscent of such great bands as Death, Cynic and Atheist. They groove, they grow and they can also pound you with blast beats.
Highlights include the two aforementioned tracks as well as the instrumental "Orbital Elements", "Choir of Spirits" with the robot vocals as well as my personal favorite "Incarnated" with the simple but beautiful melody which comes back in a harsh and clean passage. But these are mere favorites of this scribe. The entire album is well written and well arranged. Basically, these guys did their homework.
Modern metal has very few new bands as exciting as Obscura, so take advantage of it prog-death metalheads. A record like this one doesn't come out every day.
Obscura’s 2009 release Cosmogenesis is wrongly categorized as a progressive death metal album. It seems as though most people I’ve heard that don’t like this album don’t consider it brutal or heavy enough, and I’d have to agree to fit the genre. However, this is NOT a bad thing, so long as you don’t put this album on expecting an onslaught of face-melting evil and harsh music. This album is great in its own right, but it is more of a “regular” progressive metal, somewhat in the style of an Opeth brand of heaviness. Melodies and catchy hooks abound in this very listenable release, and it may act as a decent bridge for metal newbies intimidated by other bands to check out these Germans and then explore other, heavier bands from there.
This album doesn’t get repetitive after mutltiple listens because the songs continually change and evolve, the band not forcing themselves to stay “heavy”, and in fact, relishing in some acoustic and genuinely calming breaks. The aesthetic of this album definitely is reminiscent of Cynic’s “Focus” album, and I do actually see where some people accuse this band of stealing some ideas, but it is done in their own style, with less of an emphasis on the jazzy nature and instead making sure to keep things heavier than their iconic Floridian counterparts. It’s unfair to accuse a band of plagiarizing someone’s style based on a similar-sounding riff as well, because how many heavy metal bands are guilty of playing the same chunky muted power chords as Metallica without them being called out? Just because a “death metal” band has an acoustic intro doesn’t mean they’re trying to sound like Cynic. As with many progressive metal bands such as Opeth, one of the downfalls is that they generally follow a heavy-soft-heavy-symphonic outro pattern in every song, which Obscura delightfully strays from, instead mixing up heavy and soft elements in ways that keep it fresh throughout the whole 50 minute album.
Guitarists Steffen Kummerer and Chrisitian Muenzner are technical without being obnoxiously flashy or scene-stealing with endless solos. Instead, they serve the music with notey riffs reminiscent of Necrophagist (which makes sense, since two of the four members used to be in said band) that generally work to keep the listener interested and bobbing his head. One gripe however is that the riffs often follow the same picking rhythm, which, despite the riffs being different notes, sometimes make it sound like the same riff played elsewhere on the guitar. Bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling is in a word, strange. His style of bass playing always complements the music well, and it’s obvious that he’s an inspired musician from listening to the effortlessly tasteful licks he pulls out of that fretless bass. With the fretless bass as well, Thesseling is able to do strange microtones and eerily smooth slides on the guitar, lending an entrancing and unique sound to this band’s clinical aesthetic. Drummer Hannes Grossmann of Necrophagist fame performs very well indeed on this album, a drummer who knows when NOT to play as well as how to chill in the background and accent the themes of bass and guitar. However, he can shred as well, and his mastery of odd time signatures is apparent, especially in “Orbital Elements”, which continually shifts from 7/4, to 4/4, to 3/4 with a triplet feel throughout. As for the vocals, Steffen Kummerer also handles this area surprisingly well for a guitarist. He ranges from clean to aggro-growling, but most of the time it’s actually possible to understand what he’s saying. His voice isn’t overly dirty or meaty sounding either, a midrangey yell rather than the typical Cookie Monster style.
This album is definitely for musicians and those interested in listening to slightly death-tinged progressive metal, not the casual listener looking for something to crank out of his open car window to look cool. The production is considered too clean by some, but if you’re not expecting a crushing death metal album, then you’ll find a remarkably full-sounding recording with great tone on every instrument. It is quite well-balanced and very professional sounding, with nothing coming to attention to gripe about. I recommend this album for the more open-minded listeners out there who don’t care that an album isn’t heavy. It’s about the quality of the songwriting and musicianship anyway, and Obscura pulled it off on this very listenable album.
This album is like one of those bedroom guitarists that does nothing other play scales over and over again, and play some ridiculously fast licks about eighty or ninety times. While this guitarist usually goes nowhere, and never is in a band, Obscura managed to pull this off (all the while abusing the name of one of the greatest technical death metal albums ever), and get noticed.
If there's one thing I hate about modern death metal, it's that everything has to be so shiny and clean. Nothing can be dirty, down-to-earth, and overall evil or muffled. If there would be another thing to hate about modern metal, it's that everything has to be technical or you're not worth anything to the scene.
So, onto the music, and what do we have here? Over-polished, spotless, super "progressive technical" death metal, of course. Starting off with the virtually useless "Anticosmic Overload" we already have an idea of what this band is out to do. Play fast, technical, and mind-bendingly dull. Even the old bassist of legendary Pestilence, Jerone Paul-Thesseling or however you spell that, is playing stupidly boring tech tricks and supposed "jazz licks".
Next we have something scary, that surprised me, a good riff. "Choir of Spirits" actually starts off with a good riff, even though it's generally a Gorguts knockoff that eventually spindles off into another stupid blast section with growls thrown over the album. So far, this album isn't exactly pleasing to the ears.
So, the guitars of the album are exactly what you expect, technical riffs with a sort of feel that reminds of Death (especially the Death cover, Incarnated...oh what, that's an original?) and other old-school technical death metal bands that did this style right. Where Obscura are playing this hyper-tight riffing with uninspired drumming, bass, and vocals, Death was playing hyper-tight riffing under interesting production, bass lines, drumming, and especially vocals.
Speaking of vocals, this guy is sadly the highlight of the whole damn thing. His highs are really genuinely great, shrieky but mostly mid-ranged with a bit of grit. His lows are boring and monotonous, and of course, which vocal style does he perform more often? Yep, that's right, he does lows. Ugh. Oh, and the damn vocoder vocal on "Choir of Spirits" is just irritating, the whole band is ripping some Cynic riffing off right there, and then the vocals are even impersonating Paul. This guy won't ever shut up, either...and the only time when he does in fact shut his trap, it's on the song that would have needed vocals the most, "Orbital Elements".
The guitars, the bass, and the drums are all easily relatable to three metal albums: Gorguts's "Obscura", Death's "Individual Thought Patterns", and Cynic's "Focus". Every instrument permeates a need to copy, imitate, and virtually copy everything played on those three albums, but also with some interesting ideas on their own...no, not really. Every solo, every riff (from the biggest rip in metal history, Incarnated, to Choir of Spirits' opening riff) is stolen, it's quite obnoxious really.
I wish I had more to say about this album, but I couldn't get past the fourth song without getting a small headache and contracting boredom. But, wait; there is one song here that is actually good. It surprised me, almost terrified me, that Orbital Elements is a good song. Starting off with what sounds like Cynic's "Textures" stupefied, we have a decent intro riff, which then leads into a good riff around the one minute mark, and continues into another Gorguts riff, but with less interesting ideas. So, what we have here is a good song gone wrong.
So, this album is an over-done pile of rip-off artistry. Sure, there is guitar-"wizardry" everywhere, and the album has a very proficient set of musicians, they can't write songs worth their lives without looking at the Atheist, Gorguts, or Cynic posters in their rooms. So, that's it. I recommend this only to those who are obsessed with production, technical stupidity, or a vocalist who won't shut the fuck up.
This review was written originally for htttp://www.MetalNeverLies.com
First things first: Cosmogenesis (2009) is a really cool CD. It has a really cosmic feeling to it all throughout the album, (Oh hey! Maybe that's where the name comes from.) and it definitely got 2009 off to a great start release-wise. Now, this is only Obscura's second full length, but it's great. What else could you expect from a band with top musicians? (Two people from Necrophagist, so you know this is going to be some technical stuff!)
“Anticosmic Overload” is a great start. The riffs are fast and really catchy, and the drumming is insane. Brutal death vocals are present, as well as... What's this awkward sound? Fretless bass? Now I know these guys are the real deal. I'm still getting over the uniqueness and coolness of this fretless bass, when all of the sudden I'm hit in the face by a killer guitar solo with some technical flair. Nice. Okay, I was impressed, so I gave the rest of the CD a listen...
“Choir of Spirits” is awesome. This song has a quite mystic introduction that is enhanced by the fretless bass really well. Then it picks up to a more brutal display of the band's abilities. The chorus is catchy, and the drumwork will keep your head banging. They also use some robot-esque vocals here which reminds me of Cynic a little bit, and that makes me happy. This solo kicks just as much ass as the guitar solo of the first song. “Universe Momentum” and “Incarnated” could have paragraphs about them too, but it's easier to just say that they are solid metal songs with a lot of awesome parts, especially at about a minute into “Universe Momentum”: it's brilliantly pulled off. “Orbital Elements” is my favorite track on here, and it's an instrumental. The instruments seems to have an eerie voice to them. The drumwork is tight and dead on. “Universe Momentum” has everything you could ever want from an instrumental song. The bass in this song is probably the most well used out of the entire album.
Of course, the rest of the CD feels complete and offers plenty of insane drumming, killer riffs and solos. The album starts off fast and technical, ventures to slow and melodic, shifts back and forth between those a bit with some progressive parts here and there, and finally concludes with “Centric Flow” It definitely doesn't feel like a 50 minute album, but it is. I guess great song writing and amazing musicianship does that. There isn't a single bad or uninteresting song on this album. The sound is pretty refreshing, and the music definitely has a lot of life to it, as opposed to some similar bands who would be technical for the sake of being technical. Obscura keeps their music emotional and engaging.
The only thing I could imagine people not liking about this release is the volume of the bass because sometimes it distracts from the direction of the songs. This is just a minor flaw, and it doesn't happen too often: about 95% of the album has near-flawless production. Cosmogenesis (2009) is a great album and I will definitely be looking forward to anything new these guys put out. I highly recommend giving this CD a good listen.
Obscura have been one of those "Diamond in the Rough" bands to me ever since I heard Retribution especially the cover of Death's classic "Lack of Comprehension" and after seeing that they have been signed by powerhouse label "Relapse Records" they had their chance at the big time and they did not disappoint.
I found that the album took a massive step forward in the evolution of their sound. I've always been a fan of progressive technical death metal like Quo Vadis, Augury, Neuraxis, etc. and finally there is one band that captures the progressive death metal sound that is outside of Canada. That being said they also added a nice European metal twist.
The riffs are ones that will stick in your head for days. They drive the songs forward in a way that they become unforgettable. The bass reminds me a lot of Cynic in the sense that they bass lines are audible and have that same jazz-fusion style which makes the album stand out among other bands of this genre.
Speaking of Cynic, they also use electronically enhanced vocals in a few of their songs that take you back to the days of the groundbreaking album "Focus" with a modern element integrated into that as well. It's nice to finally hear another band be able to pull off that sound.
In regards to the drumming, something stood out more than anything for me and that is before I purchased this album I was able to see Obscura live. That drummer is absolutely insane he does excellent blast beats, double kicks etc. and the album sounds exactly as it should sound when the songs are played live. That one final aspect is what pushes this album over the top and why it deserves a place as one of the top releases of 2009.
The music on Obscura's "Cosmogenesis" can be described as surprisingly good mixture of Cynic, Death and Necrophagist. Most of the songs are pretty fast and technical, yet melodic and memorable. Imagine a more dynamic and less brutal version of Necrophagist plus melodies and some calm parts and you get the idea.
It takes quite some time to understand what's going on and how the songs are built up, but this album grows with every listen. The vocals are in the standard death metal style, like you would expect, and they are well done (but not extraordinary). Some people try to criticise the "lack of heaviness", or even claim that this band is not metal. That’s not true: In fact, this album is much faster, heavier and more metal than for example "Traced In Air" by Cynic. Just listen to the title track and then tell me that this is not metal. I mean, are we talking of the same band? Okay, it might not be as brutal as say Suffocation, but that's no issue, since sheer technicality, variety and a sense for *melodies* are the biggest strengths of Obscura. "The Anticosmic Overload", "Universe Momentum" and "Incarnated" are two songs that show the ability to create songs that are technical, melodic and kick ass at the same time. Especially "Incarnated" with its catchy riff is one of my favourites. "Orbital Elements" is not just the only instrumental on this album but also a really good one and another personal favourite. "Choir Of Spirits" and the title track both show the more brutal side of this band and are simply GREAT, like most of the other songs. Oh, and did I mention that the songs are full of shredding solos? Better not try to count them. Altogether there are only VERY few things that I don’t like about this album:
The bass is too loud and sometimes too complicated for its own good. I do understand that this is annoying for many. Less would have been more in this case. Besides, some parts of the songs fail to hold the listener's attention because they are either not memorable enough or too complicated. That's an important thing where they have to improve.
However, "Cosmogenesis" only has some minor flaws; but it's very good and highly recommendable nevertheless.
I am sorry to have to write a review like this for such a clearly talented band, but "Cosmogenesis" is not really metal release. Yes, the guitars are downtuned, there is a growling vocalist, and there is constant double bass and standard metal drums, but the fact remains that this is simply not a heavy album. The vocals are delivered poorly and do not have the necessary characteristic of death growls - anger! The massive emphasis on the bass is a poor choice. Bass guitars can have solos, but when played as another guitar itself just takes away from the whole band. Bass should emphasize the other instruments instead of taking away from them. In this album, it is nothing more than a distraction. The guitarists rarely stray to the lower strings, which people call "progressive". However, in the case of Obscura, it further decreases the heaviness of this album. Death metal should be heavy and raw; brutality is a key element of the genre, but Obscura have none.
Obscura sound like a band that has nothing better to do than play mediocre technical death metal, which they are not trying especially hard to play. If their songs were well-written, I would be more accepting of this, but they're not. Obscura can't find it in them to write a heavy song; they must resort to unmemorable shred or another random bass tapping riff. They sound like a really, really bad ripoff of Necrophagist. After giving this album 7 or 8 listens, I could not recall one song from the other. They are technical, but in an age where technicality is now useless without songwriting, Obscura have to do better than this. Overall, there are three qualities that truly make a death metal album: songwriting, brutality, and a working band. Obscura don't have the brutality or the songwriting, and the band does not work that well together. There always seems to either be something missing, or too much going on. "Cosmogenesis" simply cannot compare to albums like The Faceless's "Planetary Duality" and Necrophagist's "Epitaph". This receives 20% just for sheer technicality, a high rank for Obscura. Spend your money elsewhere, knowing that after one listen your mind will be as blank as if you had never purchased this.
I'm no fan of modern tech death by any means. As far as I'm concerned, most of it blends into a flurry of diminished sweeping half the time, and most bands don't seem to be able to write a decent song if their lives depended on it (and don't get me started on Beneath the Massacre - a bunch of tapping licks and breakdowns do not a good song make). I do make some exceptions: Origin are catchy, Necrofag are OK in small doses, Outcast tear me a new arsehole, and now Obscura have grabbed my attention (lot of bands starting with O... hmm).
I saw the video for Anticosmic Overload and was mightily impressed; now, in possession of the album, I'm slowly falling in love. Their sound isn't particularly original: mix in Necrophagist with the more old-school tech death à la Cynic, Atheist, Pestilence, and that just about sums it up. The riffs aren't ever unnecessarily wanky, and a lot of them are actually pretty simple (!). But let's step back from my skepticism towards all things technical for a bit: not only can these boys play, but they can sure write a catchy song too.
Every song is chock-full of great and surprisingly catchy riffs, and the solos vary between your standard neoclassical fare and something that sounds much more like something Cynic would do. As far as I can tell, the two guitarists have very contrasting soloing styles (one neoclassical and one more jazz-fusion like), which makes the solos a lot more interesting than hearing the same one every time (I'm looking at you, Necrophagist). The bass supports these riffs fantastically; this is a great example of a fretless bass being used to its full potentialin metal. There are chords, slides, microtonality, you name it. As far as I'm concerned, Thesseling fits this style of playing far better than he did Pestilence's on Spheres. Absolutely fantastic: to boot, the bass is very prominent in the mix without muddying anything up or taking the attention away from the guitars. The drums are what you'd expect from Hannes Grossmann (ex-Necrophagist), but he varies it up a lot more than he did in Necrophagist. The beats are a lot more varied, and he doesn't simply sit back and blast for hours on end. The vocals vary between a high, aggressive shriek and a more guttural growl. Every now and then, he breaks into clean vocals, and manages to do so tastefully at that. There's even a bit of vocoder in Choir of Spirits - naughty!
All of these elements gel in together very well. We actually have a good supergroup here, wow! The songs all have an identity unto themselves, and not once do they sink into excessive repetition or mindless wandering. Highlights of the album for me were Anticosmic Overload, Universe Momentum and the instrumental Orbital Elements.
I am very, very wary when it comes to technical death metal these days, and I still think this album is a cracker. I would recommend this even to those who despise it on principle, just to see an example of modern tech death being done correctly - no showing off, no superfluous elements, just technicality used as a means to fit the end of a song.
What we have here is the death metal version of progressive, which is basically progressive metal/rock with some lower-tuned guitars that have more distortion, harsh death metal vocals mostly in the mid-range and blast beating drums. Even the old hold-over from progressive going back to the 70’s are present, such as using a vocoder. The fretless bass also tends to soften the overall sound a little. Other than that, this is a collection of good old progressive standards of off-time jazzy runs and shows of technical prowess, albeit in a death metal setting.
Now with that whole description, it’s up to one to decide whether those are good qualities or bad. On one hand, "Cosmogensis" tends to flow very well with little to no choppiness (a problem many progressive bands have, but tastefully avoided here), and even has a few catchy points, but on the other hand there's lots of progressive out there, and lots of progressive death metal as well. Unfortunately the more bands and albums there are in a specific area of music, the less relevant all those bands become, leading many listeners back to the originators. As it stands, the more progressive death metal albums I hear, the more I’d like to go back to the old Death albums.
Originally posted at www.waytooloud.com