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Illegitimation shouldn't really be viewed as a comprehensive collection of Obscura's odds & edds...I mean, that's what it is, but I think of it more like a chance to hear/purchase the Germans' 2003 demo with a bunch of other random junk tacked on that likely no one cares about. A reasonable fan package for the few that want to experience their new favorite band in completion, but not exactly worth the money you might pay for it. However, it does offer a little insight into the band's origins and how they developed into one of Europe's premiere progressive death metal bands due to the excellence of their sophomore album Cosmogenesis in 2009.
Curiously enough, the titular 2003 demo itself seems aimed partially in a melodic black metal direction, or at least that's how some of the more majestic tremolo picked passages come across atmospherically. There are plenty of obvious death metal overtures, and the vocals and breakdowns place it firmly in that camp, but the chord choices that were later more heavily informed by bands like Death and Atheist seemed more vividly European in execution, almost like older Moonspell or Dissection had they gone death metal. Beyond that, the songs feel slightly misshapen, awkward and uninteresting. The 3-minute instrumental intro track wasn't the best choice, and would have greatly benefited from lyrics, while a lot of the shifts between thrashier, simple mid-paced rhythms and floods of blasts with melodic, texture chords seem to struggle with writing anything I'd consider memorable. You can definitely hear the raw space-matter condensing into what they would later evolve into with Retribution and Cosmogenesis, but it might also have gone elsewhere. The guitars are mixed alright, bright enough to make out what they're playing, and the drums are actually more charismatic than on the debut album...but the growls are mundane, and the songs just pass through the ears and mind like so many other melodic black/death demos that fell under the radar in the 90s and 'oughts.
The next three cuts represent a pre-production demo for Cosmogenesis, and you'll immediately recognize "Incarnate" as the best thing on this collection and possibly their career, a spurious and uplifting journey through the cosmos riding on wings supplied by Floridian progressive death metal. "Open the Gates" and the intro riff for "Headworm" are also decent, more brutally inclined stuff with spikes of that aforementioned progression and melody. But really, I'd rather just listen to the sophomore record which is more consistent and fulfilling...I'm not sure how much of the other two tunes were redistributed into later material, if not then perhaps these were good enough that the band could re-record them. Lastly, we get three more cover tunes, which are really obvious like those on the Retribution reissue. A Cynic tune ("How Could I"), an Atheist tune ("Piece of Time"), and another Death track, the unfortunate "Flesh and the Power It Holds". Okay, we get it, fellas, you LOVE Florida so much that I'm surprised there aren't any photos of you wearing Mickey Mouse ears...also that there wasn't also a Nocturnus or Hellwitch song represented. Anyway, these all sound decent, but not removed enough from the originals to be memorable depictions.
Ultimately, Illegitimation does not legitimize itself unless you just love Obscura and want to throw money in their direction. The Germans' roots are very clearly humble, the added content average, and in all honesty they just have one impressive album to their name: Cosmogenesis itself. Even its own successor doesn't necessarily live up to it, so frankly it's hard for me to define this band as anything anyone should really be compelled by beyond just that one disc. Hopefully they'll make me eat that statement in the future, but for now, this isn't worth the trouble.
Un-fucking-believable. In the midst of Necrophagist worshiping, brain drilling technical death metal, Obscura comes plowing through with expression, technicality, and emotion that I have never heard from a band before. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this album fellated my mind; even now I have to bring an extra pair of pants with me wherever I go in case one of my buddies plays Headworm. As a compilation, I have to say that this is flawless. It starts off with ... And All Will Come to an End, which is a short instrumental score with melodic tremolo picking and obvious black metal influence, which is a fitting start, as it then kicks into gear with Crucified. It also has a black metal feel to it, with generous helpings of blast beats and a couple of extra heavy passages.
Fear starts off with a Death inspired, groovy kind of beat which then catapults into some thrashy double bass and impressive guitar work. The riffing is fast and panicky, which is sure to induce headbanging in the most stoic and grim of metalheads. It's good all around death metal, save for the clicky triggered sound of the bass drums. It's not that big of a deal, though, it still kicks ass.
Immanent Disaster is one of my preferred songs with the album, with some great mid paced chugging riffs intermittent with thrash influences and some great grouped notes on the bass drums. A perfect blend of groove and nervous sounding riffs. But then... In the middle of the song, the bassist drops a beautiful line, which is followed by what I believe to be a violin or a cello. After that section, the guitar picks up the same riff and the drums kick in the blast beats to complete the picture with combined beauty and utter brutality.
Currently, Incarnated is the only Obscura song I've learned in guitar, and let me tell ya, it's hard to appreciate the musicianship of these guys if you haven't played (or attempted to play) their music. Their hands are ridiculously flexible and I often found my fingers splayed across the fretboard like a tap dancing spider.
Strangely, this is one of their simpler songs, with less riffs than they normally have in their songs. That's not a bad thing; I actually like being able to hear a more simplistic Obscura from time to time. The lead guitar passage is quite beautiful with the bass, I daresay, and also compliments the song very well. Needless to say, the solo near the end is definitely not simple, and makes me want to give up playing. But still, it sounds fucking great.
Open the Gates is interesting. It's one of the songs that I tend to pass over sometimes, but it's grown on me lately. It seems to take a more crushing angle on their brutality, primarily using blast beats to drive the point home along with psychotic trash passages and riffs that follow in the insanity. There's even a hint of Death in there with a cool jazzy section or two.
The volume is going up for Headworm. It's pulverizing, groovy, dissonant, guttural death metal and I fucking love it. I'm purely astonished by the vocals on this song, which brings to light the vocalist's range. It's impressive, to say the least, and I'm honestly having a hard time finding words to even describe this song. It's just... Incredible and it has to be heard.
I don't think I need to go into very much detail about the covers, but I will say that Obscura surpassed the original artists, in my opinion. Especially with Flesh and the Power it Holds, which they absolutely annihilated. I'd pay to see them play covers live, and I'm a broke motherfucker.
Even though it's a compilation, I'm still jizzing my pants over this. Call me crazy, but I see it more as an album that has a couple of re-released songs on there. That's not important, though. The point is, this album is great, and you need it.