Obscura – Akroasis (2016)

Canada’s Obscura are finally back with a brand new record and it shows that they’ve only been getting better since the release of 2011’s Omnivium. I actually cannot believe it’s been that long since we’ve had a new Obscura record, but let me tell you – the wait was ever worth it. I sure I’m going to upset a few people when I say that I thought the band’s debut Cosmogenesis was simply boring, and I still think so. It wasn’t until their sophomore that I started to hear a really great band, and that’s only continued. But there’s no use in looping what I previously said, so let’s just get to the observation. We start out with “Sermon Of The Seven Suns” which is more Cynic worship than anything else, seeming surprising from a band that literally named itself after a Gorguts album. The track even changes into completely non-metal territory, observing some acoustic prog-rock. “The Monist” however finally kicks it into gear with a heaping helping of beefy death metal. I don’t know about you, but it’s great to hear thick death growls emanating out from frontman Steffen Kummerer instead of the harsh vocal rasp of which I think has been excessively overused. Oddly enough, even this song turns into a bit of progressive art rock, but I guess that’s just the kind of style they’re going for this time around. Though to be honest, when the title track opens up for axeman Rafael Trujillo to play some tasty solo sections along with Kummerer, is anyone really going to object? It certainly won’t be me.

“Ten Sephiroth” and “Ode To The Sun” both feature the death growls of which I’ve asked for, but the latter is a much stronger piece with angelic choir vocals and some marching drums performed by Sebastian Lanzer. Problem ends, it ends just as it gets good and goes right back into that formula this band tend to lose themselves in. Gentlemen, we know that you can play technical death metal. We’ve known it for years now, but there’s no real need to remake the same sorts of songs you’ve already made. Unless you’re just adding more songs to Cosmogenesis or dare I say it, Focus. “Fractal Dimension” does get more interesting towards the end, but you’ll have to be patient before Trujillo’s obscure solo section comes into the mix and adds a bit of breath to the track, as well as the section which comes after. Sadly, it offers us another solo and fades out with that. So I guess you’ll have to go see the band live in order to hear the whole song. Then we have “Perpetual Infinity” in which some folk instruments are shortly utilized as well as a nice solo and some proggy parts, but it’s nothing special. Okay, I’ve got that one out of the way. Now here comes the real meat of the record, in the form of an EP length track by the name of “Weltseele.” I won’t even kid about this one folks, as “Weltseele” is over fifteen minutes long and contains possibly one of the most grandiose tracks that this band have ever recorded and probably will ever record. Lyrically it’s not much longer than any of the other songs on the record, but that’s because it offers more in overall instrumentation and most of all, experimentation. Using a combination of both the harsh scowl and the deep gravel, Kummerer’s skills are really put to the test on this one. Considering the length of the piece, I’d assume that Kummerer and Trujillo’s guitar skills along with Sebastian Lanser’s drum acrobatics and Linus Klausenitzer’s bass licks are all being put to the test here. Constructing something of this length isn’t nearly as difficult as it may have been years ago with the advent of technology and file transfer, but you can only imagine how much strain it would put on these guys to have to perform something like this live every night. We can’t all be Opeth, you know. But the band doesn’t necessarily have to kill themselves over this one, as there are also several violin, cello and double bass sections performed by various session musicians to give the guys a needed break between the heaviness. They still manage to put up a fight though, showing that they didn’t bite off more than they could chew as they ultimately deliver a magnificent piece to end most copies of the album with.

There is an instrumental bonus track on the limited edition version of the disc entitled “The Origin Of Primal Expression” but it seems like a bit of an afterthought and feels like the end credits to the musical equivalent of a film that I just listened to. It’s not really necessary, but I feel that it does accentuate the piece a little and makes for a fuller experience. I can’t really see why one would have to pay more for what is really the shortest track here, especially when it shows the musicians doing what they do best; but perhaps that’s why I’m not in music marketing. Again, it’s a nice piece but not worth the extra money I feel. Should have been on there to begin with. How I hate musical DLC. When all is said and done, Akroasis serves up a very strong performance, albeit with some doctored up approaches of material they’ve already excelled at on prior discs. You can tell that they’re trying to spruce up their old hat a little, but it’s nice to see them taking on new territory as well. Three albums in and Obscura seem to be getting even better, while taking what they know onto broader horizons. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with that.

(9 Tracks, 58:00)

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