REVIEW: OBSCURA – “A Valediction”
German tech-death metal leading lights Obscura is a truly innovative band. Throughout the band’s few lineup changes, Obscura has kept innovation at the core of its music apart from the oodles of technicalities that came with it. The band’s newest record ‘A Valediction’ once again conjures awe and excitement for all the right reasons.
‘A Valediction’ by Obscura is a long wild journey exploring the new possibilities of technically complex music that is beautifully candid about a myriad of musical influences. You can hear a variety of musical influences ranging from the legendary music of Death to the massively mesmerizing sounds of Bach evident in the intricate soundscapes of the guitar arrangements. Oh, ‘A Valediction’ also marks something of a homecoming with Obscura with the return of Christian Münzner on guitar and Jeroen Paul Thesseling on bass – members of the ‘Cosmogenesis’ and ‘Omnivium’ line up along with Steffen Kummerer. What makes the band’s sound strikingly different yet gently nostalgic is the entry of the brilliant David Diepold bring his mad drumming talents to the table.
I expect nothing less than excitement, speed, technical virtuosity with German precision with Obscura. At this point, these ideas are akin to the sound of Obscura, a heritage of the band’s sound really.
‘A Valediction’ absolutely smashes. “Forsaken” is a little nostalgic of the band’s ‘Omnivium’ days with the use of acoustic guitars, catchy syncopated riffs, a singing fretless bass, groovy sections with drums that hammer. An absolute treat. Songs like “Solaris” and the title track “A Valediction” brings us back to very familiar and unmistakable Obscura sounds. A sonic comfort space of the familiar and nuanced so beautifully executed. An explicitly newer sonic space in the band’s music is heard on “When Stars Collide”- an absolutely essential speedy track with a vibe that is actually very bright and happy sounding. This song also features clean vocals by Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid, from Soilwork. Absolute delight! “The Beyond” is a literal massive wall of sound. And yet, the intricacies in the music are very distinguishable! The crushing drums, riffs akin to pacey chase sections, a gravitating fretless bass that pulls you deeper in and the gorgeous and harmonically rich solos make this song classy. “Orbital Elements II” was a song I was really looking forward to since the track-listing was announced. A follow-up to the original “Orbital Elements” from the ‘Cosmogenesis’ album, this song is instrumental music par excellence. The tasteful rhythm sections, with spaces for oodles of guitars, leads, a lovely fretless solo (I am a massive soft spot for fretless basses), a wide, encompassing, and super engaging drum solo bring this song together to create something truly one for the ages.
“The Neuromancer” is another favorite of this record. The scorching leads on this album highlight Münzner’s absolute musical mastery and sophistication. His take on neo-classical shred highlights the timeless antiquity of classical music. Throw in some Baroque influences too, the spirit lives in Münzner. The bass lines sing even as a rhythmic section. How even? Kummerer’s vocals truly encompass a new force of energy in this record and on this song. Artful as ever! “In Adversity” is also another brilliant song! With rhythmic sections, playing, and syncopation not previously heard on any of the band’s records, yet we feel comfortably nostalgic. Talk about a band bringing out their innovation and influences as well as Obscura. Oh, this song has an interesting breakdown coupled with beautiful guitar harmonies. Dare I say, this is one of those rare times a band did not overdo this no matter how good? Perfectly balanced. “Heritage” is a wonderful track. Interestingly this song almost sounds like a bit of a macro view into how the band’s sounds grew and evolved in the course of this four-album series from Cosmogenesis to now. Everything about it is precious.
‘A Valediction’ – more like a masterpiece. Obscura delivers as always. Irrespective of having a very complex and rich sound from the start, ‘A Valediction” is a very mature yet diverse soundscape of the band. The songwriting sounds organic, spontaneous, and right from the heart full of heritage. A heritage of not just the band’s sounds over the years but also their individual musical influences- a culmination of which gave this wonderful record. The intention and vision to pioneer new frontiers in music as a whole are very clear with Obscura and ‘A Valediction’ shows this without wasting any time.
The sounds of the guitars, the sound of the production, the bass, and the drums. The absolute brilliance of Fredrik Nordström on the mix and mastering side of things made the sound of the record a very surreal experience. Everything about this album’s sound moves air very passionately. No cut corners and no pretenses. The massive and incredibly clear sound and imagery of the record by itself sets a new benchmark in production. A brilliant set of players coupled with a genius who can sculpt and chisel sound as an art form makes ‘A Valediction’ by Obscura an absolute essential metal record for the ages to come. How would one sum up this record? As Christian Münzner says “More is more but it’s never enough”. This album is peak Obscura by far in terms of musical accomplishment.