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Obscura - A Valediction review

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Band: Obscura
Album: A Valediction
Release date: November 2021

01. Forsaken
02. Solaris
03. A Valediction
04. When Stars Collide [feat. Björn 'Speed' Strid]
05. In Unity
06. Devoured Usurper
07. The Beyond
08. Orbital Elements II
09. The Neuromancer
10. In Adversity
11. Heritage

I feel like I’m mentioning every other week how much good melodeath there is this year; well, there’s another sub-genre with ‘death’ in the name that’s doing pretty well too.

The end of October saw the release of two significant tech-death records in the form of Bleed The Future by Archspire and First Fragment’s Gloire Éternelle, with Archspire continuing to push the limitations of hyperspeed technical brutality with the former and First Fragment stunning all with their virtuosity and ambition on the latter. Not a month later and Obscura, now something of a veteran act within tech-death after nearly 20 years, are here to unleash their sixth record upon the world.

A Valediction is a significant record for Obscura themselves, with it featuring the first appearances on an Obscura record for Christian Münzner and Jeroen Paul Thesseling since Omnivium in 2011 (this isn’t a complete Omnivium re-union; instead of Hannes Grossmann, A Valediction features David Diepold behind the kit for his debut album with the band). With these virtuoso musicians back into the fold, it won’t be a surprise to most people that A Valediction is another worthy addition to both the band’s discography and the technical metal scene as a whole.

I’ve always considered Obscura to be one of the more compelling bands associated with tech-death, but not necessarily for their technicality, which is predictably impressive on A Valediction. I’ve found Obscura to be particularly notable because, since 2011’s Omnivium (if not earlier), they’ve fallen somewhere between progressive death metal and technical death metal, applying instrumental and theoretical complexity whilst taking cues from less technically/extreme-minded prog and other metal styles. Compared with the ballistic intensity of an Archspire or the relentless complexity of a First Fragment, Obscura have always been a bit more on the accessible side, and that carries across to A Valediction, which arguably goes further than any of its predecessors in venturing away from tech-death, whilst still remaining recognizably connected to that scene.

One can’t listen to the drum onslaught, chaotic guitar leads and fret(less) board antics of Jeroen Paul Thesseling early on “In Adversity” without recognizing this as an Obscura song; however, as the track progresses, the song develops into something awfully close to a Gothenburg track with some of its riffs, grooves and hooky guitar leads. Never abandoning tech-death, the nevertheless song features multiple sections that would sound perfectly in place on a melodeath album, not to mention the unexpectedly djenty brief turn later in the track. It’s also hard not to hear the influence of some established Gothenburg-style bands at times on “When Stars Collide”, with the cleanly sung chorus actually featuring Björn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork.

At the same time, this is an Obscura album; opening song “Forsaken” recaptures that ‘prog-meet-tech-death’ charm of “Septuagint” from Omnivium (the two tracks are even almost identical in length), with the bouts of complex aggression countered with hookier, more approachable riffs and detours into softer territory. There’s also some of that Cynic-inspired weirdness that’s permeated previous records to be heard on this song and “Heritage”, amongst others, right down to the vocoder vocals. At the other end of the spectrum, the likes of “Solaris” and “In Unity” deliver frenetic, contorted complexity that should amply satisfy genre enthusiasts, whilst the rapid guitar soloing on the title track remains incredibly impressive, even having now spent over a decade listening to metal musicians attempt to write the fastest and wildest solos possible.

Before getting the promo copy for this album, I’d seen the record mentioned as potentially being the band’s most melodic yet; I’d have to give Diluvium or Akróasis a more thorough revisit to say for sure, but I’m inclined to agree. However, I don’t think longstanding Obscura fans should be concerned about this negating the impact of their tech-death; the skills are all still on display and there’s plenty of nasty material to delve into on A Valediction. I’m personally a fan of the approach they’ve taken here; by bringing in the occasional elements from outside of prog/tech-death, Obscura have increased the memorability of the songs here without sacrificing what makes them such a key group within the scene.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 17.11.2021 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 7   Visited by: 202 users
17.11.2021 - 15:50
Rating: 9
I really enjoy reading your reviews and this makes me even more excited about the seven other songs not released as singles. It surely is a great year for tech death!
"You have the right to believe in what you want. I have the right to believe it's ridiculous." - Ricky Gervais
17.11.2021 - 15:56
Rating: 8

Written by Nejde on 17.11.2021 at 15:50

It surely is a great year for tech death!

If you're not all tech'd out yet, may I recommend also trying the latest Cave Bastard album, which I've also just put up a review for? I've had quite a bit of fun with that album since it came out on Friday
17.11.2021 - 17:53
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Now you can teach a radu how we write others home work whit out copy it and get turn teachers around that actually 2 reviews are totally different
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
19.11.2021 - 10:53

All in all is as good as it was promised, more melody without compromising the bands style. I just felt like the last three tracks didn't quite match the top quality of the rest.
19.11.2021 - 11:43

If I had to describe my feelings towards most tech death, it'd be "not really my thing". It's a genre I find ok to listen to once in a while, but it doesn't really move me all that much. Obscura is one of the few exceptions, maybe because they actually write catchy and memorable songs on top of being technical. This new album illustrates that, as I found myself humming along some parts after only one listen, like the chorus of Devoured Usurper or the solo at the end of In Adversity. All in all, a sweet addition to my ever-growing 2021 playlist. Oh, and great review as always.
09.04.2022 - 14:49
Rating: 7

Didn't really found this one too techy, which is not at all a bad thing.
Leeches everywhere.
14.04.2022 - 10:02
Seeker of Truth
I think with this album it's important to note that they incorporated this minor scale that provides that neoclassical feel (which I haven't heard them use before much) to their soloing (Muenzer probably). I am referring for example to 1:53-2:01 on Forsaken or 2:40-2:55 on Solaris. Plus, gotta says they are experimenting with new funkier, proggier sounds on Forsaken. Correct me if I am wrong though! 😂

But you're right in catching the Gothenburg sound, that's another new element to their sound.
Savor what you feel and what you see
Things that may not seem important now
But may be tomorrow

R.I.P. Chuck Schuldiner

Satan was a Backstreet Boy

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