Obscura // Omnivium
Rating: 4.5/5.0 —Mmm.. techy goodness!
Label:
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Websites: myspace.com/realmofobscura
Release Dates: EU: 2011.04.01/04 | US: 03.28.2011

Obscura - OmniviumMarch has really been one hell of a month, hasn’t it? To think after Amon Amarth and Vintersorg we get to follow it all up with Obscura‘s Omnivium. If any record counts as the most-anticipated of the year, Obscura is probably getting pretty close to that level. Having released in 2009, what was really a hell of a surprise for most listeners (including people who’d purchased their previous record) in Cosmogenesis, these technical death metallers built on their Necrophagist cred (and sound) and on the legacy of the mighty Death with their technical, progressive death metal, complete with awesome fretless bass attack. So, while this isn’t really a record that can fall victim of the sophomore slump (being the band’s third record), it certainly is an album that could fall victim to overly heightened expectations. And, I must admit, this Angry Metal Guy certainly had heightened expectations.

Omnivium is actually not what I was expecting, however. In some ways this was a little disappointing, and in some ways this was very invigorating. Let me try to explain. Cosmogenesis was a front-loaded record, in my opinion, and it was excellent when it was riffy, fast and techy. But the record almost underplayed the technical aspects of the band because, realistically, compared to their genre-mates I think that Obscura is quite easily accessible. It’s like taking something that should take some effort to get into (see Ulcerate or Defiled) and turning it into something that could make Gibson’s shittiest list ever made. And reality has it that Obscura is about the hookiest tech death band out there. But Omnivium? Omnivium is different.

Obscura 2011While there is definitely still that “The Anti-Cosmic Overload” style of attack, the band starts out showing that this record will be different from the acoustic strains of “Septuagint,” which while it does get heavy, is never quite so hooky. And Omnivium feels like a band that’s still sort of experimenting to some extent, drawing from the legacy of Death to even landing in Morbid Angel territory on “Ocean Gateways” and stealing the vocoder straight out of Cynic‘s playbook on “Prismal Dawn” and “Celestial Spheres.” Omnivium even ends up in Ulcerate or Necrophagist territory on the track “Velocity,” which is probably the most difficult to digest track on the record—and certainly different from anything on Cosmogenesis. This is not to say that the hookiness that existed on Cosmogenesis doesn’t exist here, it’s just more buried in technicality than before.

All of this is done with the technical expertise that few other bands have, even among technical death metal bands. Guitarist Christian Muenzner is a total beast, ripping out some solos on this thing that should make his fingers melt and that will make your brain boil, and if this guy is anything as consistent live as he is on tape he should be hailed as one of the best in the business, and, while I don’t have a list of who’s playing what, Steffen Kummerer isn’t a slouch either from the sounds of it. The other stand out musical element of this record is the bass of Jeroen Thesseling, which laces every track with impressive licks and a sound that I just can’t get over. I think the sound and approach of the fretless attack is one of the things that keeps drawing me back to Obscura. Check out the bass solo in “Celestial Spheres,” it’s fucking sublime. Hell, even the extreme vocals here have even improved in a lot of ways, though there is the use of vocoders and filters feels a tad silly at times, and there’s a of a lot more clean vocals than I was expecting. I enjoy that, but this might piss off a purist or two.

This is a dense record full of stuff that fans of technical death metal will love if they haven’t already decided that Obscura is too trendy (or derivative) to dig. I think the songwriting feels a little directionless at times (see the second half of “Velocity” and “A Transcendental Serenade,” for example), so it’s not perfect but this is a technically amazing record from one of death metal’s premier bands. I certainly look forward to hearing more from this band, and I certainly look forward to seeing where this record ranks on my end-of-the-year list, because it’s hard to imagine that something this epic and technically impressive wouldn’t end up there. Then again, predictions have a way of going awry. And 2011 certainly does seem to be turning into a banner year for metal, doesn’t it?

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  • LoopyDood

    Good review. Can’t wait to pick this album up, I’ve been waiting for it since it was announced.

    One of the things I loved about Cosmogenesis was the unique sound of the fretless bass. The only other metal band I know that uses a fretless bass guitar is Cynic. Know of any other bands?

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      Yeah dude, Death. Anything with Steve Digiorgio in it pretty much. He had two records with Vintersorg which were fucking amazing. Mayan, which is being released in May, features Fretless as well. Actually, fretless is cool ’cause it’s something that has been largely confined to technical death metal.

      • LoopyDood

        Thanks!

        Oh yeah, judging by the song I’m listening to on Obscura’s Myspace, this album is going to knock me on my ass.

    • deathsolos

      another album you can try is defiant imagination by quo vadis. steve digorgio played fretless bass on it, so the bass was excellent.

  • mitch

    Don`t know what others will think but this is definitely my favourite album thus far(For the year)
    Judging from the promo vid,Septicflesh might very well unleash a beast

  • The Chillburger

    Very cool! I’ve been very impressed with the material I’ve heard from this album. Can’t wait to here the entre thing.
    Also, Angry Metal Guy, have you listened to The Faceless or Origin? Those are two of my favorite tech death bands at the moment.

  • SERGE

    VERY GOOD REVIEW ONE OF MY TOP ALBUM THIS YEAR.

    PS.IF YOU LIKE FRETLESS BASS SOLO CHECK THIS BAND BEYOND CREATION WITH THE AUGURY BASSMAN DOMINIC “FOREST”LAPOINTE THEY SHRED LIKE OBSCURA
    http://www.myspace.com/beyondcreationofficial

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      I TOO AM EXCITED ABOUT THIS RECORD.

      I WILL DEFINITELY CHECK OUT THAT BAND. THANK YOU FOR THE RECOMMENDATION.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SECHQRFX344TUYF2R3GZYJZSYQ Merciful Wrath

    You never seem to comment on the drums. Grossman is probably my favorite drummer out there right now, along with George Kollias of Nile. His playing and Thesseling are the two things that make this record for me.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SECHQRFX344TUYF2R3GZYJZSYQ Merciful Wrath

    You never seem to comment on the drums. Grossman is probably my favorite drummer out there right now, along with George Kollias of Nile. His playing and Thesseling are the two things that make this record for me.

    • http://www.angrymetalguy.com Angry Metal Guy

      I do comment on drums, but frankly we’re to the point in metal where the drums are so retarded complex and so immensely replaced and quantized that there’s very little to say.