Obscura - Omnivium

Relapse Records
Produced by Obscura & V. Sentura

On paper, the third full-length album from technical death metal all-stars Obscura has everything going for it - for example, a pedigree which includes the drummer and guitarist who appeared alongside Muhammed Suiçmez on Necrophagist's legendary Epitaph album, as well as Dutch bass guitar phenom Jeroen Paul Thesseling of Pestilence fame. The album also has its predecessor, the critically-acclaimed, not-just-technical-for-the-sake-of-being-technical Cosmogenesis as a benchmark for what this band can do.

However, what is most refreshing - and compelling - about this album isn't the myriad qualities it possesses in the way of potential or high expectations, but rather what the album does that nobody expects it to do. Folks expect ultra-fast, super-clean blast beats from the drummer - and Omnivium delivers. Fans certainly know that finger-bending sweep arpeggios and mind-bending solos from the guitars will abound - and of course, Omnivium delivers these in spades. Those who really know Obscura have even come to expect that Thesseling will show up to the party and play his fretless seven-string bass in flamenco style as if it were a lead guitar - and as usual, he does. And of course, everybody knows that the band's founder Steffen Kummerer will deliver some of the best screams, grunts and growls in the tech-death business. Expectations fulfilled.

What many folks might not expect, however, is how all of the above-mentioned potential will be delivered in such a smooth, attractive, compelling, and ultimately, beautiful manner. Tech death - beautiful? Indeed, this is not a typo. Not only are there a whole host of melodic intros/interludes written into these songs, but often times, the break-neck pace and/or brutal heaviness of the music succumbs to slower, more melodic passages - and most importantly, the transitions between these variations are deftly handled with the utmost skill so that they do not seem abrupt in the least. The album's nine tracks flow effortlessly from one extreme to another, taking the listener on an extensive journey through time and space in first-class style.

Speaking of taking the listener on a journey, another surprising aspect of this album is that Obscura cover more territory in just under an hour than many progressive/technical death metal acts cover in several albums. There are moments when the solos and riffs are mind-bendingly technical and the listener is reminded of Necrophagist's best work, and there are others when the harmonized guitars and bendy bass-playing are completely reminiscent of Cynic.

Another interesting facet of this exceptional album is the vocals. Not only are there a non-trivial amount of clean vocals included herein (which is not exactly new territory for Obscura, but which have been used rather sparingly in the past), but on this album, most of the clean vocals are not covered up or played down by using effects such as vocoders to make them sound "spacey" or robotic - they are simply clean, well-executed vocals, many of which are beautifully layered and harmonized, delivered in an unapologetic fashion - and they fit the music perfectly.

Yes, Omnivium has everything that Obscura fans - and fans of truly excellent technical death metal in general - have come to expect, and more. However, what elevates this album from "solid" or "passable" status to true greatness is the plethora of additional stylistic elements which are packed into these extraordinary songs. On only their third full-length album, Obscura have effectively reset the bar for their peers. Somewhere, in a paticularly wonderful place, the spirit of Chuck Schuldiner rejoices and says, "Now THIS is what technical death metal should sound like!"

“ flow effortlessly from one extreme to another ”

Tracklist: Septuagint / Vortex Omnivium / Ocean Gateways / Euclidean Elements / Prismal Dawn / Celestial Spheres / Velocity / A Transcendental Serenade / Aevum

Written by Chris Poling
More: 2011, Albums, Death Metal,

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