'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.