OBSCURA
"A Valediction"

(Nuclear Blast)

01. Forsaken
02. Solaris
03. A Valediction
04. When Stars Collide
05. In Unity
06. Devoured Usurper
07. The Beyond
08. Orbital Elements II
09. The Neuromancer
10. In Adversity
11. Heritage

RATING: 8.5/10

When you consider who the men behind OBSCURA are at this point, it almost seems unfair to everybody else. Steffen Kummerer (also a member of THULCANDRA), Jeroen Paul Thesseling, Christian Münzner (also in ALKALOID, ETERNITY'S END and PARADOX) and David Diepold (see also COGNIZANCE) are, simply and undeniably, four of the greatest virtuoso musicians the metal scene has to offer. Kummerer has been there from the start, of course, and it was his initial vision that proved so effective and unique on the band's summer 2006 debut album "Retribution". Fifteen years later, OBSCURA have undergone a prolonged and endlessly fascinating evolution, taking them from the supreme-level progressive death of "Cosmogenesis" (2009) and "Omnivium" (2011) to the increasingly exploratory brutality of "Akróasis" (2016) and "Diluvium" (2018); the last of which seemed to herald a renewed focus in the OBSCURA camp, at least in terms of songwriting. Quite what transpired between then and now is probably irrelevant, because now Kummerer has surrounded himself with an even more potent and skillful ensemble here, and "A Valediction" is another clear and bold leap forward into uncharted territory.

The biggest shift here is that OBSCURA have refined their music to the point where complexity and melody coexist. The result is 11 songs that, on the surface, seem simpler and more direct than anything the band have done in the past. Underneath that surface, of course, the absurd technical skill that all four men possess is permanently on show. Whether this advancement will delight every diehard fan is open to debate — we are unquestionably a long way away from NECROPHAGIST's "Epitaph" — but songs like epic opener "Forsaken" and shiny death metal barrage "When Stars Collide" are accessible and memorable, while remaining true to their creators' brutal but imaginative ethos.

If artistic progress sets off your poser alarm, recent single "Devoured Usurper" is at hand to reassure. If there has been a more effective mutilation of MORBID ANGEL's mighty mid-'90s template in recent times, we demand to hear it immediately. OBSCURA are known to be elite death metal performers, but even by their past standards, "Devoured Usurper" is an imperious, magnificent thing. Rapacious and unrelenting, "The Neuromancer" is more red meat for the deathly hordes, but as with everything here, Kemmerer's crew are locked in a state of collective fluidity: riffs glide across blastbeats, with every layer crystal clear, and OBSCURA spiral away toward instrumental nirvana, treacly fretless bass and machine-gun riffing in perfect synch.

Despite those thrilling moments of all-out war, "A Valediction" will perhaps be celebrated more for its succinctness and melodic charms. Best exemplified by the symphonic battery and romantic hooks of the closing "Heritage", which blurs the line between tech-death and melo-death with laudable finesse, an electrifying display of greatness.

COMMENTS

To comment on a BLABBERMOUTH.NET story or review, you must be logged in to an active personal account on Facebook. Once you're logged in, you will be able to comment. User comments or postings do not reflect the viewpoint of BLABBERMOUTH.NET and BLABBERMOUTH.NET does not endorse, or guarantee the accuracy of, any user comment. To report spam or any abusive, obscene, defamatory, racist, homophobic or threatening comments, or anything that may violate any applicable laws, use the "Report to Facebook" and "Mark as spam" links that appear next to the comments themselves. To do so, click the downward arrow on the top-right corner of the Facebook comment (the arrow is invisible until you roll over it) and select the appropriate action. You can also send an e-mail to blabbermouthinbox(@)gmail.com with pertinent details. BLABBERMOUTH.NET reserves the right to "hide" comments that may be considered offensive, illegal or inappropriate and to "ban" users that violate the site's Terms Of Service. Hidden comments will still appear to the user and to the user's Facebook friends. If a new comment is published from a "banned" user or contains a blacklisted word, this comment will automatically have limited visibility (the "banned" user's comments will only be visible to the user and the user's Facebook friends).