Sound: Wow, what a sound. Obscura are an ironically prominent technical/progressive death metal band that are special for good reason... because they're actually good. Although they are almost always compared to Necrophagist and its not hard to see why, there are a myriad of differences that set them apart.
One immediately obvious trait is that Obscura are actually melodic. Although keeping to the 'death' part of their genre relatively closely, there are many moments in 'Omnivium' which rival Cynic's Traced In Air for their melody. Prime example, the opening track 'Septuagint': A harmonically complex acoustic intro and outro, a 'Battery' style epic guitar lead and a 'soft' jazz, cleanly sung bridge. There's still the tech death staple of blast beats though, but this album is one of the few cases where blast beats are used tastefully in death metal. The acoustic guitar has a few reprises here and there, such as in 'Prismal Dawn' which is incredibly Opeth like, using neoclassical, dissonant melodies and setting the tone for the rest of the song.
Track 3 by comparison is monumentally heavy. Epically lethargic but crushingly tight musicianship and a solo to put the biggest of Steve Vai imitators to shame. And there are so many variations of so many riffs, that really keeps it consistent and not too OTT.
Generally this album is something to admire, or at least respect for its complexity and diverse song-writing. If you really enjoy technical metal then there is no way this album will bore you. And the solo's, Christ, the solo's.. face melt material right there.
Production wise, there may be a few snags though, mostly with the drums. I don't know about you but that overall kit tone is generally horrible. Most of it sounds like it was borrowed from a second hand shop and just thrown into the studio, but that's just a personal complaint. // 8
Lyrics: Steffen Kummerer (a guy who was in a band called Hell-fart) has a fairly varied vocal range. On Omnivium, there are low guttural growls, Emperor-esque screams and chanted/layered clean vocals that appear during clean sections or seriously melodic bits. A good range indeed and they work flawlessly into the songs (and thank fudge, they got rid of the vocoder).
The giant egg.. thing on the album cover probably gives away the fact that this album is about space. There's really not that much to say, the lyrics come off as intellectual but sound a lot like 'burble burble' in death metal. That's one of the things that I don't get: Why do new technical death metal bands focus on space when they can't even properly the message through the vocals? The list grows: Obscura, Arkaik, Origin, Brain Drill (recent album), Anomalous, Lost Soul etc. // 8
Overall Impression: Obscura remind me a lot of Pestilence during 'Spheres' but with added Steve Vai/Cynic. Its a pretty immense release, although it might come off as more of a technical exercise rather than artistic expression (or in other words, we did it cuz we can, not because we have to) to people with a low opinion on technical metal. Even so, Omnivium is one of the most promising new releases of 2011.
Songs to look out for: 'Septuagint', 'Vortex Omnivium', 'Ocean Gateways', 'Euclidean Elements', 'Prismal Dawn', 'Transcendental Serenade', 'Aevum'. // 8