Death metal futurists Obscura debut in Dublin to showcase their sophisticated sound of perseverance.
A grey and murky Monday night in Dublin is not the most financially viable environment to host any kind of concert, never mind something as uncommercial and underground as a night of technical death metal. Ireland has been and continues to be ravaged by the inept financial decisions of its government and the overall global financial crisis; the impact of which still has not been fully realised. The current financial climate and night of the week may have explained the surprisingly poor turnout for this master-class of superior musicality. Nonetheless, none of this seemed to matter to Obscura and their stellar support line-up of Exivious, Gorod and Spawn of Possession, who, throughout the night, showed genuine signs of excitement in bringing their astounding musical expertise to a small crowd of approximately two hundred fans that gathered at The Pint music venue.
Providing the perfect aperitif, Dutch instrumentalists Exivious captured the attention of those in attendance with flowing bass work, tangential guitars and skittering rhythms that would be expected from a band comprised of ex-members of Cynic and Pestilence. Eschewing blast-beats entirely in favour of free-form, jazz-inflected progressions on pieces such as “Asurim” and closer “An Elusive Need”; Exivious’ textured approach to song-writing sounded not unlike a soundtrack to a Dutch art-house film.
Gorod’s appearance dramatically increased the volatility and gave the crowd more blasts for their buck on songs such as “The Axe of God” from latest album A Perfect Absolution, its convulsive rhythms admirably anchored by the authoritative bark of vocalist Julien “Nutz” Deyres. A fitting nickname for the singer—his eyes maniacally rolling back in his head as he strangled himself with the microphone lead while the band pulverised the audience with the taut intensity of “Programmers of Decline” and “Disavow Your God”. The evident smiles on the band member’s faces and the resulting jovial atmosphere was completely at odds with the music Gorod create and the usual po-faced aura associated with the scene. The French wrecking crews’ entertaining live show and crowd interaction making them the death metal equivalent of Killswitch Engage.
The flow of excitement and electric atmosphere dropped considerably upon the arrival of Spawn of Possession. Their musicianship is faultless and their complex density was not in question especially on the cryptopsic riffage of tracks such as “Hidden in Flesh” and “Solemn They Await”; however their position on the bill before headliners Obscura was misplaced. Guttural vocalist Dennis Röndum’s one dimensional approach, severely lacked the presence to carry the band in a live setting and as a result their set dragged greatly. Encouragingly for the band, the sole track played from latest album Incurso, seemed to make the most impact. The combination of shape-shifting, song-structure (mathematical in its construct), laser-focused, lead-work and the tormenting rhythms of “Where Angels Go, Demons Follow” amounting to an obvious highlight. Spawn of Possession’s set was that of an endurance test of technicality, which on record has many merits but ultimately it sacrificed the essence of music that every listener craves regardless of genre—a song.
Headliners Obscura can not be accused of lacking songs, they share the same innate appreciation of this musical essence as the four horsemen of the death metal apocalypse—Death, Pestilence, Cynic and Atheist, in that; technicality should be used to enhance the song-writing and not be the entire foundation on which a song is built. Obscura clearly comprehend that songs can exist with or without technicality present, yet technical musicianship alone does not equal a song.
As the lights went down, Obscura entered the stage to rapturous applause; the neo-classical, acoustic introduction of opener “Septiagint” recalling Master of Puppets-era Metallica in its grandiosity. This introduction gave way to the songs thrash-infused death metal with its feverish blasts beats and harmonious lead work courtesy of guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer and guitarist Christian Münzner.
Tonight Obscura struck an ideal balance between albums Omnivium and Cosmogenesis, as “Vortex Omnivium” flowed into the recognisable, lightning rod riffage of “Incarnated”. New bassist, Linus Klausenitzer had an unenviable job of replacing the fretless bass virtuosity of Jeroen Paul Thesseling, and it is unclear tonight whether he succeeded in his succession; due to the bass being somewhat absent in the mix. The sound of the bass was greatly missed on instrumental “Orbital Elements”, which on record is almost used as a lead instrument with its fretless, jazz-slapping and alien notation being a standout; its nonexistence tonight somewhat diminished the song’s effect.
Shockingly, Obscura possess the same showmanship and humour as Gorod and their appreciation of the crowd for attending seemed heartfelt. Smiles and witty between-song-banter did not hamper the brutality of their music and it was again extremely refreshing for this scene—Kummerer hilariously comparing the band to fellow Germans the Scorpions, due to their use of smoke machines and electric fans. This playfulness was removed when the tempo of the set dropped and the dominating Morbid Angel-esque “Ocean Gateways” laid waste to the mineshaft of a venue. Kummerer doing his best David Vincent vocalisation while the band rattled the walls with the song’s portentous-ending, hammering out its contorted groove.
Influential drummer Hannes Grossmann (formerly of Necrophagist), was even given the opportunity to wow the crowd with his enviable drum talent with an improvised drum solo that did nothing to interrupt the flow of the set. Obscura ended the night with Cosmogenesis highlights and fan favourites “Anticosmic Overload” and “Centric Flow”, the latter’s majestic end-riff carrying the night away, with fans’ fists pumping and Obscura leaving with their supremacy of this genre intact.
Returning for an encore, the opening riff from Death’s “The Flesh and the Power it Holds” causing the crowd to futher headbang and scream lyrics, while Obscura rampaged through their tribute to the forefather of technical death metal Chuck Schuldiner. On tonight’s performance alone, Schuldiner may rest in peace. The legacy he left behind is in the talented hands of Obscura, to be twisted and transformed into something equally as powerful. The future of this genre is theirs; lead the way…
2. Vortex Omnivium
4. Orbital Elements
5. Universe Momentum
6. Ocean Gateways
7. Drum solo
9. Anticosmic Overload
10. Centric Flow
11. The Flesh and the Power it Holds (Death cover)