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HMS Music Spotlight

The German prophets of prog-metal, Obscura, chose to ring in the New Year with their first album of new material in 5 years entitled "Akroasis". Hailing from Landshut, Germany, Obscura burst on to the international Tech/Prog/Death Metal scene in 2008 with their label debut "Cosmogenesis" and took the unsuspecting world by storm.

Right out the door they were offered opening support for Cannibal Corpse, Black Dahlia Murder and Nile to name a few, and started a buzz that would leave metal fans clamoring for more. In 2011 they dropped their sophomoric effort "Omnivium", which from a technical standpoint broke down all the walls and barriers that they had setup for themselves with their previous effort, and thus setting a new live standard for the band to meet. After extensive touring alongside alumni such as Devin Townsend, Children of Bodom and Death, Steffan Kummerer and crew took to the studio to start on new material - which brings us to the year 2016. With 3 albums to the Relapse Records roster and a couple line-up changes, Obscura return with their tightest, proficient and career defining release yet.

To be quite blunt and straight forward, Akroasis is nothing short of a metal masterpiece. Obscura have taken the writing of this album to an even higher and albeit more technical level than their previous efforts...I know right? Is that even possible?? To answer that question, all you have to do is clear your schedule for the next hour and press play! The album starts off with "Sermon of the Seven Sons" which is a pummeling seven minutes and thirteen seconds of straight up tech-death with elements of almost jazz fusion style timing to it. The album is full of blending the iconic metal distortion sound with the beautiful clean runs, switching back and forth throughout. This should be no surprise as it is a sound that the band have prided themselves on since their inception and can pretty much be summed up as the "Obscura standard". Where the album takes a bit of a turn is coming into the second track "The Monist" which if you are not familiar with the band and their love of throwing the unexpected at the listener to keep them on their toes, it will throw you a bit. It has a much more almost metal-core sort of pace, going at almost half-time compared to the previous track, yet it still hits the mark on every beat. Steffan also goes into a more "growl" style vocal on this one as opposed to his signature almost Dissection-esque style rasp.

One thing that stands out with this album is that unlike his clean vocal sections on Omnivium, Steffan went back to using a vocal effect for the clean and spoken parts, which I am almost certain is a vocoder, as that is what he used for similar parts on the first album Cosmogenesis. The bass on this album is another one of my favorite parts of it. Being a bassist for almost 20 years, I can appreciate a good bass run when I hear it, but with this album, and hell, the band as a whole, that's one of the factors that keeps them among my top 10 favourite metal bands of all time. The bass tone this band achieves is so distinct and so prominent, the complexity of the bass riffs is absolutely mind bending to try and figure out.

Written by: Don Pettit
8 out of 10

Another one of the things I admire about this album and what the band has accomplished thus far is their grade of evolution. Each album they do, they seem to push the envelope just that little extra bit, yet stay grounded to their roots that they are known for. This I also find, especially with Obscura, can be a downfall for newcomers to their work. They are a band that are like a television show or movie franchise - you can't really get the full on experience of each album unless you have familiarized yourself with the album before it. Now that being said, this isn't a bad thing whatsoever, as each album has enough hooks to it to dig in to a listener that they will easily go and check out the other albums, and in doing such will greatly increase their love and understanding of the progressive writing style of this German powerhouse! Lastly, the album ends itself off with an epic 15 minute journey entitled "Weltseele", which in itself sums up all the aspects of the previous seven tracks, melding the ballad like melodies, clean tones, distorted tremolos, complex solos and out of nowhere time changes/tempo changes all in one beautiful package.

If I was to rate this album out of 10, I would easily give it an 8/10. Why you may ask? As much of an experience as Akroasis is to listen to from back to front, it isn't one of those albums that you can fully experience walking in and listening to if you know none of the band's previous material. To the average listener who knows nothing of Obscura's previous catalog, after let's say, randomly listening to "Ode to the Sun" or "Perpetual Infinity" you'll definitely get a moment of silence where they literally try to process everything they just heard and make some sort of sense of it all. Obscura isn't the easy "chug-chuggy" style rhythmic metal band that will give you the "Slayer-esque" continuous headbang, and if you're not ready for it or not expecting it, it can definitely be a lot to swallow right off the bat. For fans of bands like Cynic, Necrophagist and Cryptopsy this will easily be a front-runner for album of the year. I think I can safely say that if Chuck Schuldiner (Death) were alive today, he would approve!

Don Pettit, HMS

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