Obscura is a German technical/progressive death metal band. Known for including some of the most celebrated musicians in tech and for having a sound that combines a little bit of everything into one cohesive whole, they have gone from being viewed as "Necrophagist 2.0" to being a respected act in their own right.
Formed in Munich, Bavaria in 2002 by Steffen Kummerer (guitars, vocals), Martin Ketzer (bass, vocals), and Jonas Baumgartl (drums, cello), the band wasted no time in releasing the Illegimitation demo in 2003. Ketzer left the following year and was replaced by Andreas "Hank" Nusko; additionally, Ernst "Azmo" Wurdak and Jurgen Zintz were welcomed in as additional guitarists in order to make live shows easier to pull off. All of them only lasted for a year, however, and by 2005, they were all out; the former two had quit, while Zintz had tragically taken his own life. Markus Lempsch and Jonas Fischer wound up filling the guitar and bass void, and with that, the lineup that would release their first full-length was created. Retribution dropped in 2006, and with it came touring and yet another lineup change in 2007, when Lempsch, Fischer, and Baumgartl left. They were respectively replaced by Johannes Rennig, Jeroen Paul Thesseling, and Hannes Grossmann, but Renning did not last to the end of the year and quit as well. In 2008, Grossmann invited his former Necrophagist bandmate Christian Muenzner to fill Lempsch's spot, and the classic Obscura lineup was born. A promo was released later that year, and it was enough to result in a deal with Relapse Records. Cosmogenesis, their Relapse debut, was released in the beginning of 2009 to great reviews and surprisingly strong sales, and the band suddenly found themselves becoming a rising star in tech. After multiple tours and much fanfare, the band released their sophomore full-length, Omnivium, in 2011, but work-related conflicts resulted in Thesseling leaving prior to the album's release. Linus Klausenitzer quickly jumped in to fill the void, and things continued on as normal. 2012 brought an expanded rerelease of the Illegimitation demo that additionally included preproduction tracks from 2006 and several unreleased covers from the Omnivium recording sessions. Since then, the band has mostly stuck to touring; a new album is indeed on the way at some point, but the respective solo projects of Muenzner and Grossmann have slowed its progress. Incidentally, those two have left the band as of July 2014, citing an inability to meet touring demands (Muenzner) and incompatibilities in artistic vision (Grossmann). After a series of auditions, they welcomed in Tom "Fountainhead" Geldschlaeger and Sebastian Lanser on guitar and drums, respectively. Akroasis, the first album with the new lineup, will drop in February of 2016. Geldschlaeger has already left for undisclosed reasons, but he was part of the recording lineup; Rafael Trujillo has already been announced as his replacement.
At some point in 2020, Trujillo, Klausenitzer, and Lanser departed en masse and formed Obsidious. Kummerer has stated that he has a new lineup that will be announced soon (one of the new members was quickly confirmed to be a returning Jeroen Paul Thesseling, while David Diepold was revealed a few weeks later and the return of Christian Muenzner completed the lineup), and the band will enter the studio to record their fifth full-length.
- Illegimitation (2003) - demo
- Retribution (2006)
- Promo (2008) - demo
- Cosmogenesis (2009)
- Omnivium (2011)
- Illegimitation (2012) - comp, contains the eponymous demo along with other outtakes
- Akroasis (2016)
- Diluvium (2018)
The Anticosmic Tropes:
- Badass Bookworm: All the members of the classic lineup (as well as Klausenitzer) are very well-versed in theory, while Kummerer is additionally very well-read in philosophy.
- Beyond the Impossible: Morean's guest solo on "Velocity" was never really intended to be playable; some of it was indeed pulled off completely legitimately, but some of it was also either strung together from brief phrases or otherwise heavily processed. Basically, he was running on Rule of Cool, as he is also a classical composer and thus doesn't always concern himself with making something humanly playable so long as it sounds interesting. Then Danny Tunker (who is also Obscura's guitar tech) pulled it off in one shot ON A SIGHT-READ. Morean even admitted to being completely awestruck by it.
- Career-Ending Injury: Muenzner developed focal dystonia sometime after Cosmogenesis due to the strain of having to learn so much material for so many different bands, and while he did develop ways to work around it (namely incorporating far more tapping into his playing, which is far easier on his fretting hand), it very nearly became this. He's made a near-full recovery, but he had to quit Obscura because he feared that the demands of touring in support for a new album could potentially undo all of his progress.
- Concept Album: Their releases from Cosmogenesis to Diluvium were part of a large overarching concept tied to color (blue for Cosmogenesis, green for Omnivium, yellow for Akroasis, red for Diluvium) and stages of existence (creation, prosperity, complete achievement and stagnation, and destruction, respectively).
- Cover Version: "Lack of Comprehension" and "Flesh and the Power It Holds", "Synthetically Revived", "God of Emptiness", "Decade of Therion", "Wings", "Concerto" (Cacophony), "Piece of Time", and "How Could I".
- Dumb and Drummer: Strongly averted by Grossmann who, like everyone else in the band, is very well-versed in theory.
- Early Installment Weirdness: Retribution was far less technical than their later material and carried noticeable brutal death influences.
- Epic Rocking: "Weltseele" tops the scales at 15:15; aside from that, there's "Aevum" (7:51), "Centric Flow" (7:25), "Septuagint" (7:18), "Sermon of the Seven Suns" (7:12), "Hymn to a Nocturnal Visitor" (6:33), "Prismal Dawn" (6:20), "An Epilogue to Infinity" (6:16), "Fractal Dimension" (6:14), "A Transcendental Serenade" (6:13), "Sentiment" (6:11), "Mortification of the Vulgar Sun" (6:09), "Velocity" (6:04), and "Imminent Disaster" (6:02).
- I Am the Band: Steffen Kummerer.
- In the Style of...: Geldschlaeger's solos on "Sermon of the Seven Suns" and the title track to Akroasis were intended to emulate the playing styles of Morean (the former) and Muenzner (the latter).
- Lead Bassist: Jeroen Paul Thesseling was a Type A, C, and D; not only did he contribute a great deal to the band's sound with his instantly recognizable style and tone, but he also attracted a great deal of press because of it in addition to having already been known in modern classical and microtonal music circles. Klausenitzer also qualifies for the exact same reasons, though his prior fame was as a session player.
- Lead Drummer: Hannes Grossmann is known for his extreme technical prowess and versatility, not to mention his compositional ability and skill with multiple other instruments. Sebastian Lanser, meanwhile, was already somewhat known for his own performances in Panzerballett, and was the first on their list of drummers to contact when Grossmann left. Lastly, David Diepold is known for his popular YouTube channel and overall prodigious technical ability.
- Longest Song Goes Last:
- Cosmogenesis closes with "Centric Flow" (7:25).
- Omnivium closes with "Aevum" (7:51)
- Akroasis has "Weltseele" (15:12) preceding the outro "The Origin of Primal Expression".
- Diluvium closes with "An Epilogue To Infinity" (6:16) and the outro "A Last Farewell".
- Metal Scream: Steffen Kummerer is mostly a Type 3 but is capable of Type 2 gutturals.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Hard 10 for their earlier material, soft 10 for Cosmogenesis and everything since then. Occasionally dips to a hard 9 on the more progressive-influenced tracks.
- New Sound Album: Cosmogenesis, which doubled as a Trope Codifier for their sound in general.
- Progressive Metal: A roughly 50/50 split between this and technical death. Diluvium is more of a 60/40 split in favor of prog.
- Revolving Door Band: Like The Faceless, they have had a long and steady stream of inductions and departures, along with two large-scale departures of major writing members.
- Technical Death Metal: A roughly 50/50 split between this and prog.
- Signature Style: Genre Roulette-prone compositions with prominent fretless basslines that very seldom follow the guitars and usually do their own thing, lots of neoclassical shred leads, and the occasional vocorder-aided clean vocal passage.
- Soprano and Gravel: Kummerer frequently uses vocorder-aided cleans in addition to his normal harsh vocals.
- Special Guest: They've had a few, with Tymon Kruidenier (Cynic, Exivious), Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower, Spastic Ink, Blotted Science), Tommaso "Tommy" Talamanca (Sadist), and Florian "Morean" Maier (Dark Fortress) being among the more notable ones. Additionally, Jacob Schmidt and Steve DiGiorgio have filled in on bass for various tours, while Dave Davidson and Alex Rudinger were going to fill in for Geldschlaeger and Lanser, respectively (the former had left due to disagreements with Kummerer, the latter had injured his hand) on the Summer Slaughter Tour until visa issues forced them to drop off.
- Start My Own: Muenzner and Grossmann have solo projects (the latter's first album literally being nothing but songs that Kummerer threw out, though The Crypts of Sleep is 100% original material); additionally, they have teamed up with Klausenitzer, Danny Tunker, and Morean (of Dark Fortress fame) for the progressive metal project Alkaloid (which also had several would-be Obscura songs). Trujillo, Klausenitzer, and Lanser would later go on to do the same with Obsidious in 2020. Lastly, Kummerer helped start Thulcandra in 2003, though they never released anything other than a demo until 2010.
- Supergroup: Kummerer is from Thulcandra (though they don't really count given that Obscura predated them), Muenzner and Grossmann were from Necrophagist (and Muenzner is additionally in Spawn of Possession and was in Paradox for a while), Thesseling was from Pestilence, and Klausenitzer is a prolific session musician. For the new blood, Geldschlaeger is known for his solo material as Fountainhead, while Lanser is from Panzerballett. There's also Muenzner and Grossmann's new project Alkaloid, which includes Klausenitzer as well as Morean from Dark Fortress and Danny Tunker from Aborted.
- The Band Minus the Face: This was more or less the reaction when Muenzner and Grossmann left, as they were a very major part of the modern Obscura sound (the one that got them famous). Trujillo and Lanser were eventually embraced, but in the wake of the second mass departure, this is likely the case again.
- Updated Re-release: Retribution was remastered and rereleased in 2010 with several bonus tracks and new cover art. The Illegimitation compilation could also be construed as an updated release of the demo of the same name, but it's got enough added on to count as a new release as well.