Obscura
A Valediction

I have reviewed 2 of the 3 last Obscura albums, including the magnificent 2016 magnum opus, Akroasis. But for some reason, we/I never covered 2018s Diluvium album, despite it being yet another standout in the band’s consistently brilliant releases, thought it saw them take a more melodic turn. So I thought I would return to Obscura, much like Christian Munzer (Necrophagist) has returned to them after an absence for health reasons. Another reason to be excited about A Valediction is the return of Jeroen Paul Thessling (Pestilence) on fretless bass after a few albums away. So basically Obscura is back to being a supergroup doing Steffen Kummerer’s bidding. And that melodic turn they took? It’s now a full-on, 90 degree handbrake turn into 90s Gothenburg’s driveway.

There’s no surprise here, Obscura, and particularly this line-up, has of course delivered a brilliant tech death album, that further muddies the waters for 2021’s best tech-death album with the likes of Archspire, Ophidian I, Stortgren, Ominous Ruin, and First Fragment all delivering top-notch albums. But what surprised me is how melodic A Valediction is.  And not melodic like Ophidian I‘s shredding harmonics or First Fragment‘s swaying flamenco-isms, but almost a pure Gothenburg, classic 90s NWOSDM, mixed with heavy metal and of course, all delivered with intense technical expertise and tech death precision and skill.

Case and Point, the above, killer fourth track “When Stars Collide”, a galloping, hacking-slash number with an opening/main riff that could have come from classic  90s melo-death like In Flames or At The Gates and even has a guest appearance from Soilwork’s Björn “Speed” Strid, as if you need any further convincing. But of course, it’s riddled with supine lead work and more intense technical moments. Other numbers that imbue this more classic 90s crunch and melodic hue are the 7-minute opener “Forsaken”, solo filled “Solaris”, “The Beyond”, “In Adversity” (arguably the band’s most compact, commercial number) and, almost mild manner titled track and closer “Heritage”. But fear not, it’s all blended artfully with the tech death elements the band has delivered expertly for several albums now, notably Thessling’s twangy bass runs. There just appears to be slight steadying and settling down of the sterner, stuttering tech elements in favor of some brilliantly memorable ones. And the result is a more organic, fluid, memorable album, even more so than the already more melodic Diluvium.

So while the band is a more ‘melodic’ tech-death band on this album and slightly less ‘busy’ than before it’s still chock full of breathtaking technical moments like “In Unity” or shred fest,”The Neuromancer”.  There’s even a slower, churning riff that starts “Devoured Usurper” before it devolves into basically a thrash song and sees Kummerer use a deeper growl for the only song on the album. The only throwaway track is “Orbital Elements II” a four-minute instrumental that really never does anything.

I hate being cliche and labeling this as the band’s ‘most accessible album’, as that reeks of selling out or losing status, but the fact it is, it is Obscura’s most accessible album. But it’s still an amazing album with the even more developed classic melodies intertwined with the band’s already world-class technical prowess,  thusly it’s an album both sets of fans should check out.

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Written by Erik T
November 22nd, 2021

Comments

  1. Commented by: J. Mays

    Definitely right on with it being Gothenburg tech death. This album is fantastic.


  2. Commented by: Aaronius

    I’m digging this one a lot. Yeah, it’s weird how Obscura has transitioned into like the most explosive Tech-y Gothenburg band ever. All the folks raving about the new Archspire should be redirecting their praise towards this album.


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