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A tasty start to a new cycle - 85%

TheNotrap, November 24th, 2021

If someone were to ask me which technical death metal band has been the most relevant and influential over the past twenty years, the German quartet Obscura would surely be among my top choices, alongside Necrophagist, Gorod, Archspire, and a couple of other tech researchers with notable contributions to the cause. While there's obviously no consensus on who should take the pole position, it seems undeniable that Steffen Kummerer and his compadres have done enough to be considered in the equation. Cosmogenesis, Omnivium, and the triumphant comeback album, Akróasis, are not only among the genre's best releases of recent years but have also served as inspiration for countless bands who, like Steffen, have chosen to follow in the footsteps of neoclassical wizard Muhammed Suiçmez.

When word got out that Christian Münzne and Jeroen Paul Thesseling would be coming back on board, a wave of enthusiasm spread fast among fans of the German shredders who saw it as an opportunity for the band to recapture the look and feel of their early releases. Although Akróasis has proven that Steffen can deliver high-quality material with another crew, the line-up of Cosmogenesis and Omnivium has always been seen as the band's classic squad. And while there's an important piece of the puzzle still missing (aka Hannes Grossmann), the fact that the aforementioned duo is back home is already cause for celebration. A Valediction is thus the beginning of a new cycle, both by reuniting the old gang and for being the opening chapter of a new trilogy of albums for the band.

This sense of celebration is felt throughout A Valediction. Its organic nature exudes an aura of enjoyment that mirrors a quartet loose from the genre's conservative chains, unafraid to explore more melodic territory. 'When Stars Collide', with its clean chorus (courtesy of Björn "Speed" Strid) and power metal segments, is the most visible face of this new approach, even being the most melodic song the band has ever recorded. The orthodox Morbid Angel-esque 'Devoured Usurper' or the Megadeth-ish section in the instrumental 'Orbital Elements II' are other examples that echo the album's broader spectrum. These somewhat unpredictable nuances are thus the most relevant aspect of A Valediction, together with the neoclassical layers brought by Christian Münzner's leads which lend the album an aesthetic that is both attractive and majestic. While neoclassical scales are by no means new to Obscura, they have never been so ubiquitous. The leads in 'Solaris' and 'The Neuromancer', or the bridge of 'When Stars Collide', are among its finest manifestations.

Despite its organic flow, which lends it greater musical breadth, A Valediction does not abdicate its technical foundations, in fact it blossoms from it, as if it intended to peek over the fence while keeping its feet on familiar ground. 'Forsaken's' super catchy chorus, or the melodic Kalmah-esque 'In Adversity', mirror this balance rather well, being halfway between Obscura's tech roots and a more mainstream path. This looser approach results not only from Steffen's musical direction but also from the team's strong chemistry, which has managed to effectively implement this broader formula without detracting from the band's character. The interplay between Jeroen Paul Thesseling's fretless dynamics and Steffen's riffs are among the highlights of this collective cohesion.

Contrary to its literal meaning, A Valediction is not a last goodbye, but a new beginning; the first glimpse of a trilogy that promises to re-energize one of technical death metal's most iconic brands. By welcoming more melodic and orthodox flavors, the German shredders have not only diversified their formula but also made it tastier. Because sometimes, my friends, you don't have to reinvent the wheel to bring a fresh breeze into your home.

Originally written for www.sputnikmusic.com