Album of the Week 06-2016: Obscura – Akróasis

Contemporary Death Metal worries me. Many bands these days either make Melodeath without balls, dizzying technical Death Metal without any semblance of structure to hold on to or something so buried in groove that there’s none of the aggression the genre is known for. From the beginning of their career, Germany’s Obscura has managed to be aggressive, melodic, complex and somewhat catchy all at the same time, which is exactly why I consider them to be one of the best contemporary Metal bands. And despite major lineup changes, frontman Steffen Kümmerer has maintained the band’s dynamic sound on their brand new album ‘Akróasis’.

While the album still sounds like Obscura, the band does steer their course in a slightly different direction. The influence of Chuck Schuldiner’s Death is more than obvious – though Obscura has never sounded as much as a blatant copy as Kümmerer’s other band Thulcandra does to Dissection – but Sebastian Lanser’s drum patterns are less busy than those of his renowned predecessor Hannes Grossmann and the first contributions bassist Linus Klausensitzer did to the band’s songwriting (‘The Monist’ and ‘Ten Sepiroth’ in particular) take the band to a downtuned aggression previously unheard of. Luckily without forsaking their signature melodicism.

As a result, ‘Akróasis’ immediately sounds like Obscura, but may take a few spins to fully reveal itself. Not unlike on Textures’ new record, the band has made the atmospheric sections blend with the heavier – and extremely memorable – riffs and the dynamics that are highlighted through increased use of the acoustic guitar make the record a pleasant surprise even after you’ve heard it several times. And then it’s an amazing pleasure to blast through the pleasant aggression of opening track ‘Sermon Of The Seven Suns’ or the smack in the face that is every new riff in ‘Perpetual Infinity’.

Somewhat obligated if you’re a band with strong progressive tendencies is a long suite that moves through many different sections. Fifteen minute closing track ‘Weltseele’ is the first instance where Obscura dives into that head first and they do it exceptionally well. Easily the best song on the record, it builds from a tranquil intro toward a more typical Obscura song, before incorporating beautifully arranged strings into the second half of the composition. It’s an unlikely, but ultimately rewarding mixture of violent riffing and ominous atmosphere without ever turning into a virtuoso showoff piece for anyone, which is an admirable feat by itself.

‘Akróasis’ is somewhat harder to get into than breakthrough album ‘Cosmogenesis’ was, but if you like your Death Metal melodic and on a technically high level, this is an album not to be missed. Obscura continues to take intelligent Death Metal further down the path that Chuck Schuldiner paved for them and they do it well. Kümmerer is the last one to deny Schuldiner’s influence; I remember him saying “we totally ripped off Death for this one” before playing ‘Incarnated’ in concert once. But I see them as more than mere copies; Obscura is the evolution of technical, yet highly melodic Death Metal. If that’s what you like, ‘Akróasis’ is strongly recommended.

Recommended tracks: ‘Weltseele’, ‘Sermon Of The Seven Suns’, ‘The Monist’

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