Skip to content

Nobody could have predicted that when Steffen Kummerer formed his Obscura in 2002 that he and his men would outlast Necrophagist, from whence most members of Obscura’s most iconic constellation came. To be entirely frank, we’ve always had a soft spot for these Germans. Since their high-profile Relapse Records debut “Cosmogenesis” the Teutonic combo has been seamlessly merging the best elements of post-“Leprosy” Death and “Spheres” era Pestilence with the densely structured songwriting of Suffocation circa “Breeding the Spawn” and the instrumental wizardry of "Focus" era Cynic and Watchtower. “Diluvium” returns to the astral and cosmic themes of “Cosmogenesis” and deals with the death of stars, the emergence of black holes and the eventual collapse of the universe. Obscura was never afraid to venture into more philosophical – and esoteric territory. On “Diluvium” they cement their position as the best genre unit since Aurora Borealis.

One of the most appealing aspects about Obscura was that they never let themselves be dictated or restricted by the fairly narrow limitations that the death metal genre usually employs. Not that their Gorguts inspired moniker wasn't enough of an indication of that very thing. Always more of the Chuck Schuldiner school of songwriting Kummerer and his men have always prided themselves on bringing an air of intelligence and sophistication back to the typically bovine subject matter that death metal usually dwells in. “Cosmogenesis” chronicled, among other things, the birth of the universe and a variety of astral phenomena. From that point on Kummerer handled the collected works of forgotten German philosopher Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling, one of the founders of the Naturphilosophie, on “Omnivium”. “Akróasis” further explored philosophical concepts, detailing the titular Greek philosophical term that originated with Plato and formed a cornerstone of Neoplatonic systems. After two back-to-back excursions into more ethereal - and esoteric realms, Obscura returns to more astronomical themes.

“Diluvium” is the first Obscura record where the lion’s share of the material wasn’t written by Steffen Kummerer. In fact the majority for the session was written by bass guitarist Linus Klausenitzer and lead guitarist Rafael Trujillo with Kummerer only contributing the trio of ‘Emergent Evolution’, ‘Convergence’ and ‘The Seventh Aeon’. On “Akróasis” the progressive flourishes already came to be more prominent and “Diluvium” continues that evolution. In direct comparison the Kummerer-written albums tend to have a more conventionally percussive, straightforward slant about them that is largely traded in here for a greater interplay between each of the instruments collectively and every instrument individually. Klausenitzer, like Thesseling before him, already was an integral part on “Akróasis” but on “Diluvium” he’s finally given the space to weave some truly mesmerizing ebbing and flowing, oozing bass licks. The ambient synthesizer washes, acoustic breaks, and vocoder ululations all are accounted for and “Diluvium” sounds recognizably Obscura. The biggest difference is that the Klausenitzer-Trujillo material generally tends to be more on the melodic side. ‘Ekpyrosis’ unfortunately is not a valentine to curly Italian wonder Ilaria Casiraghi.

Obscura is far more progressive minded and melodically inclined on “Diluvium” and the percussive thrust from “Cosmogenesis” and “Omnivium” has been largely relegated to the background. The change isn’t entirely unexpected and Obscura has always been as much inspired by “Focus” era Cynic as they were by “Necroticism - Descanting the Insalubrious” era Carcass. Germany has a history of being responsible for some great (if not largely forgotten or unknown) technical death metal acts as Cemetery, Golem, Pavor and Ingurgitating Oblivion. Obscura had the good fortune to come from the Necrophagist family tree and thus had the necessary industry connections to build a career for themselves. To his credit Kummerer and his band have proven resilient in the face of trial and tribulation and survived two major line-up changes since forming in 2002. By letting his bandmates contribute to a larger degree Obscura is allowed to explore the more conventionally brutal and the more progressive aspects of its sound. Hopefully the next record will see Kummerer and Klausenitzer-Trujillo contribute equally.

Very much like Death on “Symbolic” Obscura chooses a far more deliberately paced, elegantly melodic and progressive approach to songwriting on “Diluvium”. Anybody surprised by Obscura’s venture into and exploration of more melodic realms clearly hasn’t been paying enough attention to the way this band’s earlier records were structured. “Akróasis” had the best of both and on “Diluvium” the pendulum swings the other way. “Diluvium” is consistent with Obscura’s past repertoire and the limited involvement of Kummerer as a songwriter opens up the possibilities of where Obscura can take its music without losing sight of the sound they are rightly famous for. Linus Klausenitzer and Rafael Trujillo have proven to be worthy replacements for Christian Münzner and Jeroen Paul Thesseling. Obscura is now perhaps at the most potent it has ever been. “Diluvium” is a diversion into more melodic - and progressive realms but Obscura is a band that seldom repeats itself. That alone is worthy of admiration and adulation. Obscura is Germany’s most visible death metal band for a reason. “Diluvium” once again evinces why…

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

The latest in a line of bands imitating the sound of yore, Gruesome is a California and Florida-based worship act to formative death metal outfit Death, and its pre-“Human” era, specifically the duo of “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy”. Gruesome consists of stalwarts Matt Harvey (Exhumed), Robin Mazen (ex-Demonomacy, Dérketa, Castrator), Gus Rios (ex-Malevolent Creation) and Daniel Gonzalez (Possessed). Harvey and Rios were involved in an earlier incarnaton of Death To All, a revolving group of Death alumni celebrating the repertoire and legacy of the late Chuck Schuldiner and Death.

????????????????????????????????????

Matt Harvey’s affinity for cloning better known bands is widely documented through out his body of work with reputable Carcass clone act Exhumed, and his two retro-thrash metal revival acts Dekapitator and the masked Ghoul. Likewise its clear that Harvey is an avid fan of the early Schuldiner repertoie as he recreates the chord progressions, riff schematics, tonal nuances, melodic sensibility and overall writing dynamics nearly perfectly. It is good to see bass guitarist Robin Mazen return within a more visible act. Harvey imitates Chuck Schuldiner’s vocal cadences to its smallest details. Mazen’s bass guitar tone perfectly replicates Terry Butler’s chunky tone on “Leprosy” and “Spiritual Healing”. Further cues to the seminal Death can be found in the band logo (especially the spider decoration and inverted crosses) and the album title font. It also helps that the album is openly dedicated to the late Chuck Schuldiner himself in the production notes.

The opening track is a nod to ‘Leprosy’, ‘Trapped in Hell’ is ‘Defensive Personalities’, ‘Psychic Twin’ is ‘Living Monstrosity’, ‘Closed Casket’ obviously is a tribute to ‘Open Casket’, ‘Demonized’ is ‘Altering the Future’, ‘Hideous’ has the main riff from ‘Leprosy’. ‘Gruesome’ nods to ‘Infernal Death’ and ‘Born Dead’ the “Leprosy” album. The lyrics are structured in the same way as the pre-“Human” era writings of the late Schuldiner, applying similar rhyme schemes and choice of vocabulary. Lyrically the album is akin to “Scream Bloody Gore” as it for the most par draws from 1970-80s horror movies. ‘Savage Land’ is heavily inspired by Italian cannibal movies such as “Man From Deep River” and “Cannibal Holocaust”. ‘Trapped In Hell’ is about the “Hellraiser II: Hellbound”. ‘Demonized’ is the sort of satanic gore song that was prevalent on “Scream Bloody Gore” while being lyrically reminiscent of ‘Sacrificial’. ‘Hideous’ is a callback to ‘Living Monstrosity’. The deluxe CD version includes an additional two tracks with true to form covers from Slayer (‘Black Magic’) and Death (‘Land Of No Return’). The Slayer cover is especially well-chosen as it dates back to an old 1984 Death/Mantas rehearsal.

The album features a guest guitar solo on ‘Closed Casket’ by former Death axeman James Murphy (who also substituted for an unavailable Obituary guitarist Allen West on “Cause Of Death”), a guest guitar solo by Fred DeLillo (Rick Rozz) should be reserved for the provisional second album. The appearance of Murphy sets an interesting precedent for other Death luminaries to guest on future Gruesome recordings. The door is now wide open for Paul Masvidal, Andy LaRocque, Bobby Koelble, and Shannon Hamm to guest on future output; The subdued and docile bass playing fits with the early direction that the record pays loving tribute to, but imagine what bass specialist Steve DiGiorgio could bring to this band with an extended guest appearance. Likewise it will be fascinating to see where Gruesome will go from here, and whether they will persevere with the “Leprosy” sound, or explore Death’s later more technical era on future releases.

"Savage Land" was recorded at Riversound Studios in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with Rios and Gonzalez producing. The album was mixed by Eulogy mainman Jarrett Pritchard at Mana Studios in St. Petersburg, Florida. The earthen, bassy production replicates the low end thickness and crunchy guitar tone of “Leprosy”, and “Spiritual Healing”. The duo must have diligently spent countless hours recreating the late 80s/early 90s Morrisound production in minute detail. Similarly is the cover artwork by legendary illustrator Ed Repka (Atheist, Death, Massacre) is a thematical recreation of the “Leprosy” cover. Instead of functioning as a warning of chemical warfare and nuclear armageddon as did the original piece “Savage Land” blocks the same scene within a remote cannibal context. The artwork is meta in a sense that it recreates the iconic “Leprosy” artwork while simultaneously being attentive and perceptive enough to acknowledge that the band itself is cannibalizing one of the death metal genre’s most celebrated formative acts, the very act that its visually arresting cover artwork depicts its characters doing.

Gruesome is the closest the scene will ever come to having a new Death album. Obviously “Savage Land” and its songs can’t truly compete with the writing of Schuldiner himself, but as a loving tribute to the original Florida death metal sound the record is close to perfection in about every aspect. It will be fascinating to see how Gruesome progress from here as they could either further explore the band’s crude past (“Scream Bloody Gore” and the even earlier demos as Mantas), or the more technically refined era that “Human” introduced. Either way Gruesome takes its music, it certainly will be one of the most loving tributes to one of the genre’s most visionary musicians.