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German death metal band Obscura rose to fame initially when they secured a support slot on the 2006 European tour of US institution Suffocation solely on the back of its independently released debut ‘Retribution’. Obscura then returned with a new line-up and released two albums, ‘Cosmogenesis’ and ‘Omnivium’ (in 2009 and 2011, respectively), through American label imprint Relapse Records. On ‘Akróasis’ the revised Obscura returns in its characteristic style with a completely new line-up.

49cb51b4c34840d118aca733597d7d2c‘Akróasis’ is the band’s first new effort since 2011’s ‘Omnivium’. Since the last album Obscura experienced another complete line-up overhaul with only Steffen Kummerer (vocals, guitar) remaining from the previous incarnation. The revised band now consists of founding member Kummerer, Tom Geldschläger (guitar), Linus Klausenitzer (bass guitar) and Sebastian Lanser (drums). ‘Akróasis’ was a collaborative writing effort between Kummerer and Klausenitzer, each contributing 4 songs to the session. Each of the new players fits perfectly with founding member Kummerer, and it’s impossible to tell there even was a line-up change considering just how solid and convincing the transition was. Despite that three-quarters of the band is new, Obscura still sounds as the Obscura we have come to know and love from the past three albums.

Obscura wouldn’t be itself if there weren’t subtle changes abound on its latest offering. Ode to the Sun is the most atmospheric and slowest song on the record. Despite its name it has no stylistic overlaps with German atmospheric metal band Odetosun. Weltseele is the longest and most ambitious song Obscura has yet attempted. It emphasizes the band’s Cynic influence more than any other on the record. The serene acoustic guitar beginning, the string ensemble and narration add a sense of frailty previously unheard with this band. As before Obscura fluently and effortlessly combines the fretless bass guitar sophistication from ‘Focus’ era Cynic, the concrete aggression and fully developed melodic inclination from ‘Individual Thought Patterns’ era Death, with the adventurous spirit of ‘Spheres’ era Pestilence and Watchtower level compositions.

Obscura avoids cliché and conventional genre trappings

Unlike the band from whence it came (the entirely vacuous and immensely overrated Necrophagist) Obscura was always cut from a different cloth than the typical genre band. ‘Akróasis’ is no different in that regard, as its title is testament to the fact that Kummerer always strives to avoid falling into regressive cliché and tired conventional genre tropes lyrically. Akróasis is derived from the Greek term aκρóασis and means “hearing”. Akróasis, as a philosophical branch, posits a holistic approach to listening, hence, listening as a form of thinking. Akroatic thinking, also known as interlistening, views the act of listening as having a symbiotic relation with speaking. Weltseele refers to the World Soul Theory, also known as Anima Mundi, in philosophy. According to several systems of thought there is an intrinsic connection between all living things on the planet. It relates in the same way as the soul is connected to the body. The idea originated with Plato and is a cornerstone of Neoplatonic systems.

‘Akróasis’ was recorded, mixed and mastered at Woodshed Studios in Landshut, Germany with Victor Bullok producing. The drums were recorded at Dreamsound Studios in Munich, Germany. String ensemble on Weltseele engineered at Tonbrauerei in Berlin, Germany and Fountainhead HQ in Berlin, Germany. There isn’t a great difference between ‘Cosmogenesis’ or this as far as production work goes. ‘Akróasis’ uses slightly warmer tones overall. The artwork by Relapse in-house artist Orion Landau follows the template of the preceding two records. The only difference is that ‘Akróasis’ uses colours from the warm end of the spectrum instead of the blue, grey, green and azure that featured prominently in the artwork of the previous albums.

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Former members Christian Münzner (guitar) and Hannes Grossman (drums) formed Alkaloid with Dark Fortress guitarist Florian Magnus Maier after their amicable defection from Obscura. The band features, interestingly, current Obscura fretless bass guitarist Linus Klausenitzer in its ranks as well as Dutch guitarist Danny Tunker. Both camps are doing well for themselves. Obscura survived its complete line-up alteration and ‘Akróasis’ proves that the band is more resilient and enduring than its alma mater. This new record continues the ascent of Obscura into the upper echelons of the international scene. Simultaneously strikingly familiar yet different in many aspects, great and small, the fourth Obscura record (third for Relapse) offers all the proof one needs that Steffen Kummerer deserves all the accolades that get bestowed upon him.

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Wouter Roemers Wouter Roemers is a self-professed elitist, music critic, and death metal purist from Belgium. Known for his outspokenness and frank opinions on all things metal, bands and industry alike. Proprietor of Least Worst Option where he spends inordinate amount of time analyzing records three people care about.