Obscura


(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
Retribution (2004), 5/10
Cosmogenesis (2009), 7/10
Omnivium (2011), 6/10
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Obscura, Steffen Kummerer's brainchild, injected heavy doses of pop, neoclassical, jazz and progressive elements into German death-metal, starting with Retribution (2004), that contains the six-minute Hymn to a Nocturnal Visitor.

Cosmogenesis (Relapse, 2009) benefited from the contributions of Necrophagist's guitarist Christian Muenzner as well as legendary fretless bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling of Pestilence. The sound was both more opulent and more abrasive, yielding creative compromises such as the anthemic The Anticosmic Overload. Choir of Spirits boasts both a poppy refrain and a romantic solo by Cynic's guitarist Tymon Kruidenier. A folk-ish acoustic break in Universe Momentum, one of the many songs with Dark Fortress' guitarist Santura on vocals, and the gentle acoustic intro of Orbital Elements hijack the frantic energy of the band (especially the latter with its phases of atonal counterpoint). Desolate Spheres does not slow down much but manages to layer a jazzy guitar break over the mayhem. The last songs seem designed to experiment with dynamic forms: Infinite Rotation begins virulent and intricate, but then slow down into a melodic and atmospheric section; and the seven-minute double-vocalist Centric Flow might constitute the album's melodic peak, capable of wedding a grotesque infernal dance with an agonizing mournful refrain. Cosmogenesis is, instead, a sterile display of acrobatic dexterity by guest guitarist Ron Jarzombek (a veteran of prog-metal with Watchtower).

Omnivium (2011) has longer, more polished and better organized pieces, opening with a seven-minute fusion of neoclassical motifs and deranged death (Septuagint) and peaking with an eight-minute extravaganza of chameleo rhythms, granitic guitar riffs and catchy gothic refrains (Aevum). A Transcendental Serenade survives six minnutes of heavy beat and shred guitar to slide into oneiric chanting. Alas, the ideas behind otherwise accomplished pieces such as Velocity (effective macabre singing but tedious guitar solo) or Ocean Gateways (droning vocals but incoherent drums-guitar work) or Celestial Spheres (Bach-ian guitar break but lame vocal melody) or Prismal Dawn (captivating vocal theater but stereotyped guitar accompaniment) are mixed news at best. The best display of guitar prowess actually comes in a cover of Cacophony's Concerto, hardly a compliment for the Obscura's main composer. Once the death-metal heritage was ditched, the singing/grunting/growling (which had never been their forte) became more of a drawback than an asset.

Blotted Science was formed by Cannibal Corpse's bassist Alex Webster and Obscura's drummer Hannes Grossmann with guitarist Ron Jarzombek, and recorded The Machinations of Dementia (2007).

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(Copyright © 2013 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions )
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