And finally, we come full-circle around a four-album conceptual wheel with progressive technical death metal masterminds Obscura’s latest effort, ‘Diluvium’. And, tell you what, it does NOT disappoint. No sir Bob, Lord no.
Sweeping right out of the gate with a tightened roll and sweeps and that trademark mid-register roar, we launch straight into a complex flurry of squeals, riffs and turns with ‘Clandestine Stars’. This furious opener does not give pause for a second, with soaring digitised vocoder vocals over a blasting section to interesting contrast. Normally, by this stage in a tech-death bands’ career, sticking to their tested formula starts to wear a bit – not here. Equally tasty is the brief duelling sense towards the end of the track, culminating in an abrupt breakdown. Oh man, oh yes. More please.
Next serving is ‘Emergent Evolution’, which opens more cautiously with dark ambience, briefly, before a wall of blastbeats and measured arpeggios join watertight rhythms. An endless clattering wall of double kicks and rolls subsumes a twisting riff and back to those strange but somehow effective autotuned chorus vocals. An almost Children of Bodom melodic flair is present on the jagged and playful riffs and leads on this track, showing a floatier albeit still brutal feels. The vocals screech and gruff in an almost hardcore fashion, a welcome change from the oft-monotonous feel across the bands’ catalogue. Super thoughtful, slower soloing gives an almost forlorn blues feel to the latter half, resolving back into that sharp thoroughfare we were treated to before. A melodic, spacey outro drowns the track with those robotic vocal effects.
That’s the thing about this band – you literally feel as though you are being steered through and down an endless maze of passages and corridors. Title track ‘Diluvium’ is more in-your-face, frenetic soloing and clattering blasts churning into a more brutal At The Gates style verse. Again, more variety in the vocals again with much deeper growls and gutturals amongst those familiar throaty roars. An almost black metal ethos of tremolo and blast intersperses with the melodeath-on-meth feel. Tapping sections with a more reserved backbeat and fretless bobbing and soloing straighten up for a bit, before rolling into a subsonic breakdown the size of a planet. It’s riffs where the whole band unites like this between the super-flash bits that give them extra weight. Shredding solos move from thrash style into ambience before it’s back to business for the tracks’ remainder, exiting with the almost you-shall-not-pass end of title song mini-solo.
Militaristic snare and wailing leads push us along with the next offering, ‘Mortification of the Vulga’, which warps into an evil little synth-like lead before launching into a grooving wall of riffs. Proof is in the pudding that the band can plod along with less meandering riff-work and still tantalise, with a straight-forward march throughout this track. Again, vocals take a more exploratory role, a higher range and register of growls and shrieks through winding sweeps and leads. Dissipating around the mid-section, we are treated to an almost Latino flamenco-style acoustic riff and a polyrhythmic breakdown, which trades off against a very hooky lead riff. Drums fluidly switch between blasts, rolls and shuffles as though caught in a dance, one which the bassist joins in on where tasteful and appropriate. A traditional death metal crescendo right towards the end gives the song some kick, resolving back into that acoustic and fretless bass dance.
Of course ‘Ethereal Skies’ starts off with frenetic leads and jumpy polyrhythms, doing exactly what it says on the tin with the title. Keeping a consistent match between crashing drums and higher vocoded vocals, a much more melodic and synth-laden feel contrasts with abrupt chugs to keep things alert. The trade-off between rasps, vocoder, synths and blasts, alongside some Nevermore-feeling solos gives a crisp air to the track. Sonically, not the heaviest track but definitely a great example of truly progressive tech-death, not just a band that claims it by sticking a synth riff in there somewhere. Super-tight rolling breakdowns with lofty sweeping play between fairly stable riffage towards the end.
‘Convergence’ initially sidles in a bit more sneakily with a brief acoustic riff, before melting back into that blast-heavy, sure-footed but dancing melodic firestorm of riffs. The fretless brings itself out into the fold in this one, appeasing us low-enders with a frenetic but wandering climb up and down the fretboard ladder, syncopating alongside those robot-vox before drilling back into lead-driven blast territory. A slightly briefer track here with some more melodic ‘singing’ behind the effects (be interesting to hear them sung without the vocoding) and winding, spiralling solos.
And here comes ‘Ekpyrosis’. They love their unusual track titles, eh? Stomping through the door with an outright slamming riff, a mini solo duel rolls out another blasting cavern of labyrinthine riffs. Much as we’ve heard before, but you know what? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Moving between measured stomps and weaving fretboard masturbation, back to mosh-ready chord chugs, this is the musical salad we’ve become accustomed to by now. A quieter little bass-solo-and-acoustic section precedes a nice little lead guitar solo segue, which builds in complexity as the track progresses. As expected, we drop back into the Danger Zone, full of scathing blasts and complex riffs towards the requisite tech-death concluding blasts.
‘The Seventh Aeon’ starts with another serpentine twist between dissonant chords and growls, giving the bass some time to warble here and there in between anthemic power chords and arpeggios that wouldn’t be out of place in mainstream metal, were it not for their super technicality, blastbeat-laden undercurrent and heavier vocal slant. Almost Egyptian-sounding solos in the mid-section rolls solos across the majority of the remaining playtime, aside from a brief growled breakdown. A more subdued track for sure. With that in mind, though, this is still head and shoulders above the majority of technical and progressive death metal going, and that’s saying something in 2018. ‘The Conjuration’ begins with much more traditional fervour, another slamming chord progression over tremolo, straight into no-nonsense blasting that feels more black metal than tech-death. Insidious dissonant chords keep this feeling alive, an ominous brutality broken up by super virtuoso arena-rock soloing and watertight but also very straightforward riffs and leads. It’s nice to have this balance in play as opposed to being beaten over the head with endless complexity and breaks things up well.
Epically-titled ‘An Epilogue to Infinity’ plods in with similar murder in its’ eyes. With an almost groovy shuffle and lighter backdrop, laser-precise double-kicks and palm muting plays against that familiar melodic semi-soloing throughout. More of those tension and release pathways through heavy soloing, abrupt riffs and meandering passages – what we’ve expected via earlier tracks, until we hit a brief interlude into seething hyper-speed blasts that ratchet the rest of the song up to 11. Like Belphegor sparing dissonant chords ring out over heavier and faster sections before moving back into hectic soloing and thrashy outros. Seems the latter half of the album has a more pensive, sinister feel, which fits the natural wax and wane of our cognitive attentional capacity instead of trying to dazzle and bewilder from A to Z.
By the time the slow and methodical fretless bass solo and atmospherics of outro track ‘A Last Farewell’, our appetites have well and truly been sated.
What a tour-de-force. It may only be July, but yours truly is tempted to slap money on the table with this album as contender for technical death metal album of the year, if not the pinnacle of death metal for 2018 thus far. A massive and controversial call, but it’s a bet I’m willing to stand by.
Pick up your copy of ‘Diluvium’ out now HERE!