Obscura - Omnivium
Relapse Records
Technical Death Metal
9 songs (54:07)
Release year: 2011
Official Myspace, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Charles
Let’s not pretend it isn’t easy to tire of technical death metal, especially when phasers are set so frequently to ‘widdle’, as is the case with Germany’s Obscura. Receiving this from Relapse, I must confess to wondering whether it would really add anything to the band’s pristine and gleaming tech-death sound as expressed on Cosmogenesis. This is a worthy band, for sure; the good thing is that they are not content to turn in an album of similar-sounding daisy chains, with a particular flare for the kind of jazz-fusion bass guitar twang-solos and spacey vibe-outs reminiscent of my favourite band, Cynic. Moreover, as the recent reissue of their debut Retribution showed, they also have a penchant for earthier early 90s influences; a fact that goes some way to ensuring that the hi-tech sterility of their modern death metal medical research clinic is occasionally bespattered in gore by the unnecessary and un-anaesthetized surgical procedures of the nutritious old school.

The latter is spectacularly in evidence on what I think is the album’s highpoint, Ocean Gateways. This is brilliant; it has a roaringly primitive down-tempo groove that beautifully channels the Lovecraftian madness of Bloodbath at their very best (it even sounds like Akerfeldt on vocals, but if he does guest there is no mention of it in the promo material). And it is onto this irresistible base that Obscura decide to graft their considerable skills as virtuoso soloists; their jabbering lead lines like cackling invocations of depthless tentacular horrors.

Elsewhere, though, it often feels a bit less interesting. Euclidean Elements, for example jackhammers away pretty much like any number of other bands in this genre, though again the athleticism of the bass guitar gives it a certain degree of distinctiveness reminding me of Steve DiGiorgio’s proactive work on Death’s Individual Thought Patterns (bass guitar nerds will love this). Because the band are obviously extremely adept (and want you to know that), it is no surprise that Omnivium gleams with trinkets. There are plenty of very-Opeth acoustic flourishes which also serve to generate an intriguing and well-sculpted tonal depth when overlaid with the metallic elements. And there is even a strange passage which sounds drawn from Akercocke on the mysterious Velocity, with its moaning clean vocals and misshapen metal-prog balancing act. But too often these elements feel like the band are including them because they are clever sods rather than through profound artistic need.

I like Obscura and think they have the potential for a death metal masterpiece. They just need to take those fluid, fluent technical riffs and lock them into the kind of biting grooves that can make you really fall in love with an album. They come close to this on Prismal Dawn, the twisting grooves of Aevum, or the mysterious and dynamic landscapes of the aforementioned Velocity. But, the abiding impression is of a complex jigsaw of a release that the listener never quite warms to on an emotional level. If the metal world is a school, Obscura are its mathletes; having the time of their lives discussing formulae whilst the rest of us let them get on with it. Still, great solos!

Killing Songs :
Ocean Gateways, Velocity
Charles quoted 75 / 100
Other albums by Obscura that we have reviewed:
Obscura - Retribution reviewed by Charles and quoted 85 / 100
Obscura - Cosmogenesis reviewed by Charles and quoted 82 / 100
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