Welcome to The Saw’s Butcher Shop. It’s your Master Butcher, The Saw, and have I got a New Album Review for you, today! The German technical Death Metal band, Obscura, have released their sixth studio album, A Valediction. If you’re unfamiliar with Obscura, where have you been?! For longtime fans of Obscura, some mental adjustments will be needed.
Obscura formed in Landshut, Germany in 2002; founded by guitarist and vocalist Steffen Kummerer. Throughout their active career, the band has shuffled members continuously, many times leaving only the founder. Kemmerer had a singular vision of how Obscura was to sound, and he spent nearly 20 years perfecting that sound.
Retribution (2006) – After a demo, Illegimitation (2003) brought Obscura to Germany, a self-release brought them to the world. They toured with Suffocation in 2006 and played many European festivals through 2007 to gain a solid fan base.
Cosmogenesis (2009) – After signing with Relapse Records, Obscura dropped their sophomore release, which definitely marked them as serious contenders. They played their first ever North American tour with Cannibal Corpse. This record was listed by Metal Storm “as one of the 100 most important Death Metal albums.”
Omnivium (2011, Relapse) – Was the first of a three-album concept; drilling down on that vision for Obscura. They toured Europe with Hate Eternal, Beneath the Massacre, and Defiled. Then they toured North America with Children of Bodom. In 2013, Obscura toured Europe with Death, and most of the shows were sold out.
Akroasis (2016, Relapse) – was marked by a world tour with Death. The band headlined a European tour with support from Rivers of Nihil. They performed three shows in Mexico with Sepultura.
Diluvium (2018, Relapse) – Obscura headlined North America with support from Archspire. The European tour in 2019 was supported by Fallujah. They also had a third Japan run, and a short run in Australia and New Zealand With support from Jinjer. The band headed back to Europe in early 2020 with support from God Dethroned.
A Valediction was released on November 19, 2021 on Nuclear Blast Records. The change in record companies also marks a change in the vision for Obscura. In 2020, former Obscura bass player, Jeroen Paul Thesseling (2007 – 2011), and former Obscura guitarist, Christian Munzner (2008 – 2014), rejoined the band. Drummer David Diepold joined the band in 2020 and the package for the new era was complete.
Let me just say, A Valediction is beyond refined and mature Tech-Death! It is classical music, played on 8-string guitars, fretless basses and vocalized with gutterals of varying degrees (and even some cleans!). Y’all, this is a composition! Like Mozart, only Metal! The use of acoustic guitars on several songs lulls one into a trap as technical hooks – both atmospheric and grinding – weave through a maze of ascending and descending bass tracks and rumbling double base, toms, snare and symbol magic. Most of the songs are mid-tempo, melodic, and winding, with Kummerer utilizing Black Metal-like raspy vocals. Each entry is sprinkled with blast beats, again dragging one into a trap of familiarity, because the tempo quickly changed and you are carried away captive.
One solo, on “Forsaken” is layered over nothing less than a jazz rhythm. “When Stars Collide” features a clean vocal chorus (it never ceases to amaze me, these vocalists can really, actually sing!). “Devoured Usurper” is a nod to the old days of Obscura, with deep register gutterals and a much slower grinding groove for most of the song. Many of the songs, at certain times, remind me of Death, or Arch Enemy, or Hypocrisy; some riffs are very metalcore, too, then those times are gone and I’m down a rabbit hole. I think it’s yet another trick to drag me in!
A Valediction is a beautiful record. Very harmonious and melodic, but with a different view than other Tech-Death albums. I love that it’s not breaking speed records, but rather, it’s technicality is in the incredible parts each instrument is playing; all layered within atmospheric Death Metal sometimes, and other times within classic blast beats, double base, and driving riffs. Obscura is a unique Technical Death Metal band; very smart, and always with a hook to drag you in. The Mozart of Metal!
Song Listing for A Valediction:
When Stars Collide
Orbital Elements II
Rating: 8.5/10!! A beautiful and smart Tech-Death album!
Favorite Songs: The Neuromancer (very Mozart-like) and Devoured Usurper (not indicative of the rest of the album).