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Obscura - Diluvium

Label: Relapse Records
Format: Download
Released: 2018
Reviewed By: Jack Mangan
Rating: 7.5/10


Obscura are from that class of modern Prog Metal artists who’ve gone beyond assessments of good or bad (or “they’re cool!” or “they suck!” if you prefer). They simply exist as a mass of high speed note data, with varying patterns with fluctuating enjoyability. This kind of thing is being seen more frequently in the Prog Metal genre, as heady, intricately crafted works works of density and high proficiency are becoming more common.

 

Each song on Obscura’s 2018 full-length, “Diluvium,” is a jumbled sculpture of LEGO pieces, of all different shapes and colors - - with the occasional Mega Bloks brick stuck on - - to be picked up and viewed from different angles. Within each song, you’ll find that some of the pieces are deeply satisfying and fascinatingly stuck together, others are more baffling or off-putting, which makes it impossible to dismiss any individual tune as good or bad. You have to break them down further into the good and bad sections of the songs.
Their sound is an interesting blender-full of Testament - - especially with Skolnick’s Jazzy flourishes, Opeth, In Flames, Between the Buried and Me, Arch Enemy, Jeff Loomis’s solo and Nevermore work, and their contemporaries. Again, as has become standard for bands of this ilk, all of the musicians are at Boss Master level; Obscura do get many bonus points for respecting the bass, and leveraging multiple top-notch bass solos. Vocally, Steffen Kummerer never goes clean, although there are some melodic stretches that come close. He does work for the music, dialing in a few different harsh voices, from growls to somewhat more shrill. The drums are magnificent, but also basically nonstop solos.
My number one feeling after listening to Obscura’s record is overstimulation. Kummerer’s relentlessly rough vocals and the wild drums definitely contribute to this feeling. Following flurry after flurry of technical dazzlement, you become numb to the new bursts of impressive, busily-compiled measures, which is a bit of shame, because there’s a multitude of enjoyable parts to be experienced here. At some point, though, the signal becomes noise. I highly recommend that you take Obscura’s “Diluvium” in sections, and don’t try to consume the whole thing in one, or even two sessions. If you do try to experience too much at once, your attention will go fuzzy, and you’ll find yourself drifting to other topics, like politics, and what to have for lunch (is the reuben at that sandwich shop really worth $10?).
So, if you'll allow one more metaphor, this record is like a mine, full of rewards and hazards and valuable materials. Put on your helmet, flick on the light, and proceed slowly, with caution. It’s difficult, but worthy. I’ll always applaud smart people making smart music for smart people.

 
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