Obscura - _Omnivium_
(Relapse Records, 2011)
by: Johnathan A. Carbon (
I remember being at a party where it got to the time of the night where the participants all overcame any feelings of awkward shyness. I believe we were playing "Mario Kart", and the sounds of T. Rex's _The Slider_ were grooving away on the stereo. I also remember my friend coming in, looking at us and walking over to my iPod with a sinister smile which spoke only of maleficence. My friend scrolled backwards before reaching Obscura's _Cosmogenisis_, and then walked out of the room. What followed for the next fifteen minutes was a regression of any warm social feelings established before. The participants became quiet, save for the sound of my continual laughter.Sometimes, the introduction into heavy metal is best done at the deep end of the pool. Obscura's recent splash into the metal waters has brought not only credible attention but accolades in the field of technical death and progressive metal. Despite the thoughts and feelings experienced by the participants of that fabled party, Obscura manages to make the sounds of progressive death interesting and reasonably accessible to outside participants. With nothing extra brought to the table, Obscura transforms the genre, producing albums which are milestones not only in the field of technical death and progressive metal, but in the big public pool of heavy metal. While doing backstrokes and spitting plumes of water into the air, _Omnivium_ pushes the band's concepts and musicianship further into the recess of space and time.One of the largest drawbacks to technical death, as well as any virtuoso style, is the tendency to lose any listener without an advanced knowledge of musical theory or implementation. Furthermore, the level of technical bravado often steps over other themes or characteristics attempted in an album. Obscura not only showcases the spider-like guitars and inhuman percussion, but uses those elements as a foundation for an intellectually challenging record. Lyrically, _Onmivium_ catches band rushing off to the study with multiple pages of notes and diagrams trailing in their wake. Obscura continues their scholarly pursuit into a cataclysm which will ultimately decimate matter and existence in totality.The lyrics for _Omnivium_ read like essays written from the perspective of an astronomer grappling to find meaning in cosmic existence. The lyrics also indicate a certain foreshadowing into a violent conversion which will occur despite others' wishes. Each song professes certain doubts, hypothesis and declarations on topics regarding celestial powers and the role of man on the cusp of a great transformation. In early press releases, Obscura announced _Omnivium_ to be based on the work of German Idealist Fredrich Schelling. While Schelling's work in the field of Romantische Naturphilosophie may seem like an unorthodox lyrical choice, Obscura's interpretation of chaotic rebirth and inevitable existential purgation is extremely complimentary. The lyrics, not surprisingly, are not structured around any conventional sense, but are spat out with the type of calm imperativeness heard in doomsday soothsayers. I may not hear everything they are trying to say, but that does not ease the horrific fright.Musically, Omnvium continues the direction heard in 2009's _Cosmogenisis_. Obscura balances the progressive and the technical as not to let any one part dominate the album. The listener is flung to the other like the strangest social dance you have ever been party to. One second you're being dipped by a melodic interlude and the next you're being pulverized by sixteen tons of cement. _Omnivium_'s opener "Septuagint" begins with a sweet acoustic introduction before jettisoning the listener out of an escape hatch with a speed rivaling moving planetary bodies. "Septuagint" acts as an overture displaying the partnership of musical parts working for the greater sum. No one aspect of each song becomes too monotonous or claustrophobic, but floats and pours with dynamic space. Guitar solos and ascending bass lines retain their virtuoso qualities, but without arrogance or declaration. There is something more important working in _Omnivium_ -- a greater good._Omnivium_ far surpasses the feverish anticipation held by fans. If I possessed a destructive gambling habit and a knowledge of a place where wagers could be placed on metal albums, _Omnivium_ would be a safe bet. Obscura has managed not only to get a good grade on their science project, but also scare the ever living shit out of all of us if they are even remotely right.
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