OBSCURA — Cosmogenesis

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OBSCURA - Cosmogenesis cover
3.98 | 25 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 2009


1. The Anticosmic Overload (4:16)
2. Choir Of Spirits (5:31)
3. Universe Momentum (4:33)
4. Incarnated (4:53)
5. Orbital Elements (5:21)
6. Desolate Spheres (4:01)
7. Infinite Rotation (4:48)
8. Noospheres (5:04)
9. Cosmogenesis (4:14)
10. Centric Flow (7:25)

Total Time: 50:12


- Steffen Kummerer / vocals and guitars
- Jeroen Paul Thesseling / 6-string fretless bass
- Christian Muenzner / guitars
- Hannes Grossmann / drums

Guest Musicians:
- Ron Jarzombek / additional guitars (9)
- V. Santura / vocals (3,6,8 and10)

About this release

Release date: February 17, 2009
Label: Relapse

Thanks to UMUR, progshine for the updates


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Brain knot music. The term just popped into my head as I was reading reviews of this album. I have listened to it a few times plus given randomly picked songs extra play time and although I am of the sound and sure opinion that I like it (enough to consider buying another album by Obscura), I am finding it very difficult to stride into a review.

As anyone will tell you, this album, as well as Obscura’s style, is very technical metal. There seems to be something going on constantly and the band are rarely prepared to ease back and let something playout for a bit. I admit to having a certain fondness and admiration for technical bands like Decrepit Birth, Augury, and now Obscura too, but there is that challenge to make sense out of the music of each track and, for that matter, to learn to distinguish one song from another. All instruments are moving often at great speeds and sometimes in seemingly disparate directions except that you understand that the music is actually quite coherent and the instruments intelligently integrated.

What makes Obscura and this album stand apart from much of my previous technical metal listening experiences are a couple of things and that would be the use of slower tempos and even clean and beautiful parts with acoustic guitar or a kind of Steve Vai-like soloing style and the delightful use of bass guitar as an instrument that can hold its own and even stand out in the music. I have a great appreciation for metal and prog music that gives the bass a lead melody or frequently casts the spotlight on that wonderful instrument (which I don’t play, in case you were wondering).

Because of the attention served to these aspects of the music writing, it becomes rather easy to begin to remember tracks for their standout parts rather than be doomed to be remembered as an intriguing and exciting tangle of rapid-fire, aggressive drumming, multi-single-note convoluted guitar riffs, and tangles of shredded solos with pinch harmonic wails that seem to drive through the music like hailstones in a thundershower during a baseball match. No, Obscura make it a little easier to say, “I really like the lead guitar melody here,” or “Good use of clean guitar here to add something to the song,” or “This acoustic passage is very pleasant and unexpected.” Interestingly for me, shortly after acquiring “Cosmogenesis” I got “Focus” by Cynic and I could see the possible influences this older album had on Obscura’s musical style. There is even a bit of vocoder vocals on “Cosmogenesis” as if in salute to “Focus”.

The production is very clear and that is something I appreciate for such complex and often speedy music. My one criticism might be that the growls and sore-throat screams strike me as not being necessary throughout the whole album. It’s not the first time that I was very impressed with the music but felt something more could have been done with the vocals in that the brutal style doesn’t always seem to be the best approach.

And now it looks like I have managed to write just over a page-worth of words in review of this album. Technical. Highly-skilled. Creative. Effective. Challenging.

Delightful brain knot music!
Conor Fynes
'Cosmogenesis' - Obscura (7/10)

Obscura are a band that has stood out from the crowded genre of technical death metal. Although their debut 'Retribution' was something of a cold opener that did little to distinguish them, their second record 'Cosmogenesis' was, and still is, one of the most well-regarded tech death albums of the new millennium. Although this very polished, blistering style of music has rarely piqued my interest, Obscura justifies their technical display by putting intelligence into the songwriting, and makes for one of the style's stronger experiences.

Although they are from Germany, Obscura takes most of their influence from American death metal bands, not least the legendary Death, as well as Cynic. Frontman Steffen Kummerer is evidently influenced by Chuck Schuldiner, many of the riffs and song structures reflect what Death was doing around the time of 'Individual Thought Patterns'. Obscura have polished that sound into something much more modern and complex however. 'Cosmogenesis' is defined by lots of dual guitar work, with one guitar playing a riff and the second guitar going at something equally as technical. From a compositional perspective, the music is very complex and dense. Despite relatively conventional song lengths, and even such 'pedestrian' elements as chorus structures, Obscura rarely lets up their onslaught of fast paced riffs, complicated drums and jazzy bass lines. Steffen's vocals typically evoke a fairly generic death growl, and while there are some Cynic-like vocorder clean singing to give a bit of variety, the vocal aspect of Obscura is definitely not their high point.

Obscura's 'Cosmogenesis' is the first album in a tentative four album concept piece, and seeing as this Obscura is an almost completely different lineup than the one heard on 'Retribution', this is the band's defacto debut. As good as 'Cosmogenesis' is however, the music still feels somewhat conventional for technical death metal. Particularly in regards to the cold, mechanical production, Obscura are not yet a full head above their competition at this point. Regardless, Obscura obviously have technical chops beyond most in metal, but what makes them stand out is their intelligence and complex composition. It's easy to play fast, but Obscura steps up to the plate and delivers a calibre of songwriting that justifies their technical abilities.
Three years after their modest retro-death debut, Steffen Kummerer returns with a completely revamped Obscura, with an entirely different line-up and with a distinctly more progressive musical direction.

The overall impression is still that of an oppressively intense death metal album, but the new musicians brought a new flavor to the sound, a richness and depth that was entirely absent from the debut. Most striking for me is the change of drum style from new recruit Hannes Grossmann, his playing is much more dynamic and creative, and he throws the death metal clichés of the debut almost entirely overboard. His contribution is essential to the sound. Also the guitar riffing has changed drastically, with less death/thrash-based riffing and instead with multiple bar spanning melodies that lend the music a complex progressive quality. The fretless bass of Jeroen Paul Thesseling stands out as well.

Quite an improvement over the faceless debut. A band to look out for! 3.5 stars.
Obscura have abruptly shot up towards the top of the modern death metal scene, thanks to both touring with Suffocation, and coming out with album right here. After the release of Cosmogenesis in 2009, they’ve become a household name in both the somewhat overblown space-metal fad and the “death metal so technical it’ll blow your balls off” category. As such, their sophomore effort is one of the most talked-about death metal albums of its kind, but while I can definitely see why many people are attracted to it, I can’t say I share their enthusiasm. It’s good, but all of the hype it gets exceeds what’s actually on here.

The first thing you will notice about Cosmogenesis is that there are a lot of things going on. Obscura certainly aren’t bashful about their technicality, making it apparent right from the get-go on Anticosmic Overload. The riffs are amazingly tight, the drummer sounds like he had six cups of coffee pre-recording, and there are fretless bass notes flying all over the place. There’s a good amount of jazz influence on the album (especially in the bass); enough to get away with calling it progressive, but not nearly up to the level of Atheist or Cynic. This trend continues throughout most of the album, in songs that don’t follow much of a structure. So yeah, it’s a progressive technical death metal album…but only MORE so! This is why Cosmogenesis stands out among modern extreme metal: it takes something that’s already crazy and over-the-top and one-ups that. That’s something to be admired.

Okay, so this album is pretty mind-blowing from an instrumental perspective. But at some point, you have to draw the line concerning technicality and focus somewhat on writing good songs. This is where Cosmogenesis experiences the same old problems that victimize the majority of modern technical death metal; there’s almost nothing on this album that is catchy, or thoughtful, or…dare I say, heavy. That’s right folks, this album is not heavy whatsoever! You might think, “So what? The instruments are AMAZING!” But hold on a second. This is death metal first, is it not? I mean, it’s supposed to be. Yes, there are growling vocals, loads of double bass work, and…that’s about it. The production is pristine. There are very few riffs that get you headbanging rather than sitting there with your jaw hanging open. And those vocals…they’re good, yeah, but what’s the point of having evil-sounding growls over wanking instruments? It all sounds so garbled on this album. My point is this: eventually, the awe of this album’s sheer technicality is going to wear off, and it might not seem so godlike once that happens.

However, despite the genre confusion and overall jumbled nature of Cosmogenesis, I must give due credit to the musicians on the album. Every member of the band excels at his individual role, once again going back to Obscura’s eye-opening take on the technical death metal genre. Special mention goes out to Jeroen Paul Thesseling’s bass work; thanks to the crystal-clear production, he plays just as big of a role as the guitarists in making Cosmogenesis a beast of musicianship. It’s because of this that I might recommend this album to a progressive metal fan before a hardcore death metal addict, but it would have to depend on their appreciation of instrumental work.

In the end, the overblown character of this album creates a great first impression, yet at the same time yields little substance. The outstanding playing is sort of canceled out by the lack of direction, with neither positive nor negative outweighing each other. If anything, Cosmogenesis is proof that Obscura are extremely talented musicians with a bright future. That’s as far as I’m going!

Time Signature
Choir of spirits...

Genre: prog/tech death metal

Aggressive, brutal, with blast beats aplenty (maybe a bit too many), yet technical and at times melodic, with twin leads and melodic guitar solos, Obscura takes one step further down the road paved by the likes of Death, Pestilence, Atheist and Cynic with "Cosmogenesis", which certainly is certainly one of the best second wave technical death metal releases.

This album is not an easy listen if one is not familiar with death metal or with progressive/technical rock, and even to seasoned fans of death metal, "Cosmogenesis" may be a challenging listen, making use of harmonic melodies one moment and dissonant chords the very next and bass work carrying on the legacy of Death's "Individual Thought Patterns" and Atheist's "A Piece of Time".

However, if one, like many fans of progressive music and extreme metal do, likes to be challenged, then, by all means, purchase this album.

(review originally posted on progfreak.com)
"Cosmogenesis" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German technical/ progressive death metal act Obscura. The album was released in February 2009 by Relapse Records. There´s been an almost complete change in lineup since the debut album "Retribution (2006)", as only lead vocalist/ guitarist Steffen Kummerer remains from the lineup that recorded the debut. Instead Steffen Kummerer is joined here by former Necrophagist members, drummer Hannes Grossmann and guitarist Christian Muenzner. Former Pestilence bassist Jeroen Paul Thesseling recorded the basslines on Cosmogenesis.

The music style on "Cosmogenesis" has taken a much more technical and at times progressive direction compared to the more regular death metal style of the debut album. Acts like Pestilence, Death, Necrophagist, Cynic, Augury and Morbid Angel come to mind at various times during the playing time. With musicians like the ones on this album it´s almost needless to say that the technical level of playing is very high. The 6-String Fretless Bass playing by Jeroen Paul Thesseling is very dominant at times and is without discussion the most progressive feature on the album. There are some semi-jazzy guitar soloing in the vein of the solos on Cynic´s albums too, which also gives "Cosmogenesis" a progressive edge. First and foremost though "Cosmogenesis" is a sophisticated death metal album with loads of technical playing and finesse and fans of the above mentioned acts should definitely check this one out. Tracks like "Anticosmic Overload", the instrumental "Orbital Elements" and especially the excellent "Universe Momentum" display how well playing the band are and also how well most of their material are composed.

If I have to voice one complaint, it would be that the album is a bit too nice and polished. I would have prefered a more raw production to give the music a bit more edge. It´s surely an aquired taste though and fans of the more polished technical death metal style will probably love this sound, so I won´t hold it against the album. It is after all a very professional and well sounding production.

"Cosmogenesis" is the kind of technical death metal album that fans of the genre waits for in great anticipation. High quality albums in this genre do not appear very often. Personally I enjoy the album with some reservations. I´d like to hear the band develop a more distinct sound and maybe lose a bit of the polish in the process too, but that´s just my personal wishes for the future. For now "Cosmogenesis" is a great technical death metal album and it deserves a 4 star rating.

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