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Very cool - 80%

webbtje, March 20th, 2009

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.