Obscura - Retribution
Relapse Records
Death Metal
13 songs (55:50)
Release year: 2010
Official Myspace, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Charles
We have here a shiny reissue of Obscura’s debut album from 2006, Retribution.Unsurprisingly, given its earlier stage of development, this is a much more primitive offering and this being metal, we are in one of the few environments in which that could be interpreted as a compliment. All the more so in death. Whereas on last year’s Cosmogenesis they delivered a convincing album with a very hiply technical sheen, this is more primal. It’s a plank of wood with nails in, but this isn’t to suggest that it isn’t interesting. Far from it, in fact.

Although it’s very easy to say this with hindsight, listening to Retribution, it doesn’t entirely surprise that they took a more “progressive” direction. As I mentioned in my Cosmogenesis review, you are never really in danger of confusing this band with, say, Gorguts (to whom I always compare them, because of their name), but the curious thing is you get more of the same spirit here than on its more overtly “technical” successor. At core this is energetic, Pestilence-inspired death metal, with a really unhinged, ugly quality asserting itself in the band’s best moments. I love the frantic, sickening lead widdles on None Shall Be Spared, for example; delightfully unpleasant music.

Get into it, and it’s a surprisingly multi-dimensional album, at times giving you a route one battering, and at other points stretching out into well-considered (if relatively subtle and contained) experiments. Hymn to a Nocturnal Visitor is a case in point. It opens with an almost psychedelic guitar twang, but switches abruptly into a deep, dark, Obituary-like groove. It cuts out and they draw in a cello to the mix, which far from sounding contrived is a moment of real effectiveness. Whilst these interludes are rare, I do detect a slightly edgy feel running right through the album that make them seem in place. All the more ironic that whilst becoming more flamboyantly virtuosic on future albums (emphasising lead and even Cynical bass guitar soloing), they probably also became a little bit less weird as well. Tracks like the excellent Exit Life, with its twisting time-shifting riffing and squealing soloing bring this into different retro territory, coming on like a less spacey (and far less synthy) Spheres at times.

This reissue features two extra cover versions at the end; Suffocation’s Synthetically Revived and Morbid Angel’s God of Emptiness. These follow Death’s Lack of Comprehension, which I believe was on the original release as well. Together, they probably define Retribution’s terms. The cathartic, chaotic noise, married to a brooding progressive edge. A fine release, and one that, were it actually a new recording, be threatening to lurk among 2010’s death metal highpoints.

Killing Songs :
Exit Life, Hymn to a Nocturnal Visitor
Charles quoted 85 / 100
Other albums by Obscura that we have reviewed:
Obscura - Omnivium reviewed by Charles and quoted 75 / 100
Obscura - Cosmogenesis reviewed by Charles and quoted 82 / 100
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