Thursday, 3 March 2016

Obscura - "Akroasis" (Album Review)

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 5/2/2016
Label: Relapse Records



there’s no denying the remarkable skill on display, and if that’s what you’re after in the first place, you’ll come away more than satisfied with ‘Akroasis’. If you were hoping to hear certain aspects of ‘Omnivium’ expanded upon and explored further, there’s a chance you might be left feeling a bit cold towards what you hear.

‘Akroasis’ CD//2xLP//DD track listing:

1. Sermon Of The Seven Suns
2. The Monist
3. Akróasis
4. Ten Sepiroth
5. Ode To The Sun
6. Fractal Dimension
7. Perpetual Infinity
8. Weltseele

9. Melos (Deluxe LP bonus track)
10. The Origin Of Primal Expression (CD bonus track)

Obscura is:

Steffen Kummerer | Vocals, Guitar
Rafael Trujillo | Guitar
Linus Klausenitzer | Bass
Sebastian Lanser | Drums


The Review:

Akroasis’, Obscura’s latest tech death offering has a lot going on, which, depending on your taste, could be an immediate turn off, or it could be what excited you about the album’s potential in the first place. The album’s been out for about a month as I’m writing this, and you’re very much able to just hear it for yourselves. Why bother writing about it now, then? Because the album presents an interesting discussion point: the importance of big, impactful musical moments vs. jaw-dropping technical prowess.

The debate isn’t a new one; the first side yells “Write a fucking song!” while the second screams “Learn to play your fucking instrument!”. Really, neither side is wrong, as music is always a subjective experience, so it really just boils down to personal taste. There are death metal albums which manage to bridge that gap nicely, Death’s later material being the most obvious example, but by and large, most tend to fall on one side or the other.

Obscura’s previous album, ‘Omnivium’, showed some real potential as far as becoming a band that succeeds at both goals. The album delivered a really exciting blend of hyperspeed melodic death metal riffing, ludicrous guitar shredding, and atmospheric interludes at opportune times to break the tension. ‘Akroasis’ tries its best to recreate that formula, with the biggest changes coming in the form of Linus Klausenitzer’s increasingly jazzy bass playing and expanded use of Cynic-style clean vocals. While there’s no doubting the extraordinary technical skill of every single member of the band, ‘Akroasis’ does seem to lose some of its lustre whenever the tempo slows down. In trying to nail down why these sections aren’t able to maintain a similar excitement level to their blast-heavy counterparts, there are a couple of likely culprits.

First, as talented as he is, and as cool as the idea sounds on paper, fretless jazz bass in a death metal context makes the whole thing sound sleepy. The band carves out a gigantic portion of the album’s sound for Klausenitzer’s bass, which is usually a good thing. But the style being utilized actively works to take the overall mood down several notches, no matter how well it’s performed. It fits the mood really nicely on an album like Opeth’sMorningrise”, which is often downtempo to begin with. But on ‘Akroasis’, where everything else is so frenetic, the bass clashes with everything else stylistically.

The second possible issue is that the album sounds too clinical to give those prog elements the life and dynamism the way Obscura wants it too. When the album isn’t moving at a breakneck pace, the ultra-tight sound takes something away from the more expressive nature of those moments. Ideally, the aim should be for a production that keeps their excellent guitar clarity, but gives the drums more life and room to breathe. I’m open to the possibility that this is too nitpicky, but for my taste, something seemingly small like this would make a big, positive difference to the feel of the material.

As I said early on, there’s no denying the remarkable skill on display, and if that’s what you’re after in the first place, you’ll come away more than satisfied with ‘Akroasis’. If you were hoping to hear certain aspects of ‘Omnivium’ expanded upon and explored further, there’s a chance you might be left feeling a bit cold towards what you hear. Even then, I would say ‘Akroasis’ warrants at least a tentative recommendation, because while some of these ideas may not appeal to me specifically as they’re carried out here, you may find a lot more to dig into.

Akroasis’ is available here and a CD/LP copy here



Band info: Facebook

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