Obscura – ‘Dilivium’ review

German prog-thrashers clear the way for new adventures in sound. The result is a blast – emphatic, innovative and enjoyable

There are moments during Obscura’s fifth record, ‘Diluvium’, where it’s hard not to think of a particularly precise firework display. Riffs fire off like rockets. The bass pings like it’s attached to the shortest of fuses; underpinning it all are drums as tight and as rapid as a sparrow’s heart.

Obscura hail from Landshut, a Bavarian town in the south-east of Germany (a place often referred to as the City Of Three Helmets, a fact included here for no reason other than it’s quite funny). Since the band’s debut release, 2006’s ‘Retribution’, the four-piece have etched a name for themselves, deeper with each release, as arguably the most innovative progressive death metal band on the planet. Every Obscura album is an anticipated event.

So no pressure, then, dudes.

Rest easy, shredders. For the largest part, ‘Diluvium’ delivers in spades. Thematically, the album deals with destruction, then rebirth, with all kinds of environmental fears played out between the two poles. This, for anyone currently who’s been paying attention to the global news agenda (or has been unlucky enough to catch the briefest glimpse of Love Island), captures some pretty universal concerns (especially when you consider this is a band with a song entitled ‘Mortification of the Vulgar Sun’).

Not that the record is merely considered with the planet beginning anew. The band’s sole constant, guitarist and vocalist Steffen Kummerer, has spoken of ‘Diluvium’ being the final release in a four-album cycle that began with his band’s second, 2009’s ‘Cosmogenesis’. This is interesting in itself, as album four marks a notable – and bold – progression from the band we heard on 2016’s ‘Akróasis’.

Yet Obscura don’t sound like a band bidding farewell to an era. Rather, they sound already primed to start a new one. ‘Emergent Evolution’ perhaps best illustrates this, demonstrating a sustained ability to stretch the melody beyond any place the listener expects it to roam, creating a soundscape that is at once aggressive, beautiful and surprising. It’s a matter of cosmetic taste whether you prefer the tight and brutal, or the atmospheric and longing, but this writer has ample time for the band’s more reflective moments, like the explorative ‘Ekpyrosis’, or the surprisingly retro ‘The Conjuration’.

It’s this diverse palate that suggests whatever rebirth takes place for Obscura next can be painted onto a snow-white canvas. There is nowhere they cannot go. There is nothing they cannot do.