Obscura – Diluvium Review

Band: Obscura
Album: Diluvium
Label: Relapse
Genre: Progressive Death Metal, Technical Death Metal
Country: Germany
Release Date: 13 July, 2018

Obscura has always been a band with a vision. Cosmogenesis was the beginning of a four album cycle about the creation and destruction of the universe, the Alpha and Omega if you will. Each following album building off of this central theme while being influenced by a myriad of German philosophers. Almost a decade later Obscura returns with the destruction of the universe, Diluvium. In case you are unfamiliar with the band and that description didn’t tip you off, Obscura is a technical progressive death metal band. One of the biggest names in the genre I’d say. Obscura are able to hone in on their technical prowess as well as blending multiple genres within their compositions without feeling forced or unnatural. Many bands in the genres of “prog” and “tech-death” are notorious for larger than life compositions and instrumental wankery respectively.
For this latest release Obscura has scaled back on the “epic” pieces for a more digestible tracklisting. No track on this album exceeds much more than six minutes, but every song is stuffed with melodic technicality. I personally think this helps the album immensely, there is a great flow to this record. There are still recurring motifs throughout the album on songs like Diluvium and Clandestine Stars, the intro riffs make a brief reappearance before the chorus kicks in. Moments like these help to create a sense of order in what can be seen as such a convoluted composition. There are also a myriad of influences and sounds throughout Diluvium. Mortification of the Vulgar Sun has some of the dirtiest riffs I’ve heard Obscura put together, the distinguished bass taking a well deserved rest behind the rest of the band. The second track Emergent Evolution has a guitar solo in the last third of the song that just oozes blues it sounds like Brent Hinds of Mastodon wrote it. The drums also shine during this section dropping the Meshuggah-esque metal polyrhythms for a fun jazz section. The only things missing from this record are some sax solos and an electronic industrial section…. But Rivers of Nihil already covered that this year.
If you’re in the know about Obscura then their bassist Linus Klausenitzer needs no introduction. His easily identifiable tone is all over this record and drives a lot of the songs ahead. His fretless bass work is something to marvel over, yet it is always used for the strength of the song not as a personal showcase. The bass solo in the opening tack Clandestine Stars is one of my favorite moments in the entire album.
The only original Obscura member left, Steffan Kummerer, really took a step up in the vocal department for this album. His harsh vocals have always been fairly solid and consistent, but they seem to have come forward a lot on Diluvium and it sounds great. They have also turned up their Cynic influence. The airy vocoder vocals that sound straight off of Traced in Air by Cynic have been present on past records, but not nearly as often as they are on Diluvium. I love the atmosphere that these ethereal vocals add to the tracks. However, there are a few moments on the record where the vocals are either too far above the music or Steffan is just trying a vocal delivery that I just don’t appreciate. In Mortification of a Vulgar Sun, an otherwise brilliant song, Steffan has this strange delivery during the verses that just sound very off-putting to my ears. I can get through it, but it’s one of the few sections of the record I don’t get excited about.
Most of my main drawbacks are from the vocal decisions made on this album, whether it was the delivery on certain tracks or their placement in the mix. My biggest problem with Diluvium is the final track (on digital copies) A Last Farewell. It is an atmospheric instrumental send off from Obscura’s four album vision. However, if I’m being honest it is completely unnecessary and definitely put in the wrong spot on the album. An Epilogue to Infinity is a fantastic album closer, and doesn’t leave you with any stale feelings. But when A Last Farewell starts it feels like it is building towards something huge, and then it ends along with the album. While this won’t be on my vinyl copy and I’m very glad about that, I just can’t wrap my head around this decision.
With the announcement that this is the end of a four album cycle (With three strong albums behind it) that took place over the course of a decade, Obscura had some lofty expectations to live up to. Obscura have concluded their vision with their best record yet in Diluvium. July 13 is a hell of a release day with bands like Deafheaven, BTBAM, Obscura and more but if you enjoyed their previous work, or were as high on the new Rivers of Nihil record as I was earlier this year, check this out immediately!

Rating: 9/10

1. Clandestine Stars
2. Emergent Evolution
3. Diluvium
4. Mortification of the Vulgar Sun
5. Ethereal Skies
6. Convergence
7. Ekpyrosis
8. The Seventh Aeon
9. The Conjuration
10. An Epilogue to Infinity
11. A Last Farewell (Digital Bonus Track)

Total Playing Time: 53:54

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