Released: 2016, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Never underestimate the power of precision German engineering. Despite five years since their last outing and an almost total lineup overhaul, tech death trailblazers Obscura are ready to silence the critics and naysayers with their latest, AKRÓASIS. Taking a step back to take a huge step forward, AKRÓASIS reconciles the technical mastery of COSMOGENESIS with the more streamlined structure of OMNIVIUM for an end result that demonstrates Obscura’s mastery of their craft.
AKRÓASIS is a bigger, faster, more intentionally complicated album than its predecessors. You won’t tread two minutes without an octopus-fingered arpeggio run, a fretless bass dollop or a drum fill that would make the kid from the Whiplash movie stutter. But it’s never obnoxious or over the top; the tech essentially acts as the melody lines that anchor the songs rather than an embellishment of them. Yes, Steffen Kummerer’s crew is showing off, and making a definite statement in the process – but it only adds to the depth and influence of the music.
Check the opening solo in the title track – it’s a phenomenal feat of musical skill, but it reappears throughout the song, expanding and contracting as necessary. Other moments like “Ten Sepiroth” and “Ode to the Sun” hunker down in a more traditional base, but layer in the vocoders and sci-fi paraphernalia that’s permeated the last several albums. AKRÓASIS closes with an ambitious 15-minute epic that engages in classical and jazz dalliances, while also ripping your face off with guttural shred.
Obscura have thrown down the gauntlet for all other death metal releases to follow throughout the year. AKRÓASIS is an exceptional album that matches brutality with unrivaled musical talent. Given the quality of work that former participants Hannes Grossmann and Christian Münzner have mustered since leaving the band (through both Alkaloid and their own solo releases), I was skeptical that Obscura could still deliver a competitive album. I’m glad that AKRÓASIS has proven this skeptic wrong.