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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.
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