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Bavarian progressive death metal trio Odetosun have been one of our favourite constellations in the underground of recent years. The trio – Luke Stuchly (vocals), Benny Stuchly (guitars, bass guitar, keyboards) and Gunther Rehmer (drums) - formed as Oden’s Raven in 2008 as a typical melodic death metal band with Viking themes, not unlike early Amon Amarth and Unleashed and their ilk, before steering towards more adventurous realms. We extensively sang our praises for their 2013 debut “Gods Forgotten Orbit” on these pages, but never came around to properly covering their second opus “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” from 2015 the way it probably deserved and the way we probably should have. Now, four years removed from their second album, the Stuchly brothers are back with ‘Spiritual Decay’, the first in a series of thematically interconnected singles to be released seperately. Whether Odetosun has abandoned the album format as a whole is presently unclear, but it’s good to have the masters of the atmospheric and the meditative back all the same. So how does ‘Spiritual Decay’ fit in with Odetosun’s repertoire?

There has always been a profound Pink Floyd influence evident through out the music that Odetosun writes. Whether it’s the David Gilmour inspired manner that Benny solos or the resounding booming bass guitar and the serene keyboards that feature prominently in the trio’s compositions. The more progressive – and ambient aspects of both “The Division Bell” and “A Momentary Lapse Of Reason” all can be heard in the two records preceding this single. Comparatively ‘Spiritual Decay’ is on the uptempo and upbeat side of things compared to what Odetosun usually does. However not soon after the opening section the single reverts back to the trio’s usually meditative midtempo and it sounds like nothing substantial has changed since Odetosun last released music. “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” was a nearly 50-minute conceptual exercise inspired by the 1972 Ben Bova novel “As On A Darkling Plain”. ‘Spiritual Decay’ was inspired the ubiquitous decline of civilization and spiritual achievements of human culture, and the first in a series of singles to be sporadically released until the trio’s third album materializes. As an isolated track ‘Spiritual Decay’ fits in seamlessly with what the trio has done before.

What has always separated Odetosun from more conventional bands is their staunch refusal to let themselves be dictated by their metallic components. Odetosun is far more dreamy and ethereal than, say, an Obscura or a Pavor. Like both those bands the bass guitar features prominently and their classification as death metal is secondary to their progressive - and post rock inclinations. Another great thing is that Odetosun never adheres to the typical metal imagery and visuals. Like Neurosis before them these three men are comfortable in their everyman and mountain man look. Stuchly’s signature melodies run rampant through out ‘Spiritual Decay’ and that it could have been culled from either “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” or “Gods Forgotten Orbit” speaks volumes of the creative alchemy that these three men have going on. There have been changes in the Odetosun camp. Their production value has steadily increased and their musicality and creativity is on an all-time high since the days of “Gods Forgotten Orbit”. If ‘Spiritual Decay’ is but a prelude to further new music we can only hope that Odetosun will continue to release new singles until their following album at long last arrives.

Suitably below the mainstream and somewhat of an underdog Odetosun is the ultimate musical pariah. They’re probably “too heavy” for the progressive rock crowd and, logically, too laidback and esoteric for the stereotypical death metal fan. Odetosun is guided only by their creativity and since their inception they haven’t paid much attention to what they classify as. Whether you want to classify them as a progressive rock band with death metal overtones, or as a death metal band with progressive inclinations – the long and short of it is that Odetosun is one of the better independent metal bands currently working the German underground. “Gods Forgotten Orbit” sounded very oceanic, breezy, and exotic, “The Dark Dunes Of Titan” gravitated towards a more spacey, airy and celestial direction. ‘Spiritual Decay’ combines the two in something that can only be described as meditative and, well, spiritual. If Nümph or Caelestis played death metal, they would probably sound something like this. As it stands Odetosun remains criminally underappreciated in their own genre. If ‘Spiritual Decay’ can turn a few more people towards their music, then it served its purpose.

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…