Released: 2011, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Obscura’s sophomore effort COSMOGENESIS was easily one of my fav’s of 2009, and in general, it’s a stunning display of technically proficient death metal. Combining measured doses of progressive jazz, sci-fi fantasy, and all around death wrenching goodness, it’s truly a fine album that I recommend to anyone who’s neglected to do so yet. Which brings us to the German quartet’s hotly anticipated new album, OMNIVIUM. Following up an album that’s received any degree of acclaim (good, bad, or otherwise) can be a daunting task, and you never know if your favorite band is gonna go all ST. ANGER on ya. Thankfully OMNIVIUM is a straightforward successor to COSMOGENSIS, continuing with many of the musical concepts prevalent on that album.
Opening with “Septuagint”, the track ignites the album and immediately reveals some of the new elements that the band has introduced this time around. The most blatant of which being a conscious sense of melody infused in the guitar work. OMNIVIUM is less about packing a zillion carpal tunnel inducing riffs into a track, but more about using their signature complexities within more digestible song structures. Musically there’s still some amazing stuff going on, but there’s definitely more personality within each track.
“Ocean Gateways” has a distinct “God of Emptiness” dirge-like vibe to it, and is reminiscent of the band’s RETRIBUTION days. “Celestial Spheres” is arguably the most accessible tune of the nine, with frontman Steffen Kummerer laying down some cleaner vocals and some more straightforward riffwork between guitarist Christian Muenzner and himself. My favorite piece of the album is the trifecta of the last three songs on the album. “Velocity” is a slow moving monster that degenerates into a brilliant jam session, “A Transcendental Serenade” is a primarily instrumental, yet multi-dimensional track, and the closing “Aevum” is a brooding, hostile affair that bobs and weaves like a heavyweight prize fighter. OMNIVIUM as a whole is a remarkable album, but those last three tunes just clinched it for me.
The production on OMNIVIUM isn’t as cold and mechanical as its older brother, and the songs benefit from the added weight. It’s a subtle difference, but one that really stands out between the two albums. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the rhythm section of bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling and drummer Hannes Grossmann at least once in this review. I’m convinced that JP has had extra digits surgically attached to his hands to pull off some of his bass stunts, and Grossman has the physical stamina of a wild gazelle – the dude is seriously non-stop. My only grievance against OMNIVIUM is that it feels like a cleaner, more polished version of COSMOGENSIS. Yeah, the songs are new, but I could hear comparative elements and maybe even some deliberate self-plagiarism within many of the tunes here. Maybe I had unrealistic expectations for this album, but as good as OMNIVIUM as (and it’s really, really good), it didn’t grab me in the way that its predecessor did.
Please don’t mistake any of my petty criticisms as a reason not to check out OMNIVIUM, it’s another exceptionally well crafted and challenging piece of death metal mastery. Longtime Obscura fans may be left wanting more, but not by much.