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Album Review: Obscura’s Diluvium

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A friend and I once went on vacation to Amsterdam. At the end of the trip, as were getting baked one last time before getting on the train and splitting town. As my pal inhaled his final puff of delectably delicious, highly potent, completely legal weed, he looked out at the street and remarked, “Y’know, I came here for the drugs. But it’s a nice bonus that it turned out to be such a beautiful city.”

Such is the case, metaphorically speaking, with Diluvium, the fifth and latest album from Germany’s Obscura. First and foremost, it rocks, hard, proving, yet again, that the MOAB in any band’s arsenal is great songwriting. It’s destined to be loved even by those who don’t normally appreciate technical death metal.

That’s not to say Diluvium is lacking in jaw-dropping musicianship. The vertiginous “Clandestine Stars” and “The Seventh Aeon” often move at speeds that will leave the listener cross-eyed; “Emergent Evolution” and “Convergence” and “Ekpyrosis” make time for spacey, jazzy digressions; and there’s a healthy dose of Cynicism, thanks to a liberal use of vocoder and Linus Klausenitzer’s slinky-smooth bass.

But the prog elements of the record feel almost incidental when placed in the context of such monumental melodies. “Etheral Skies” has a section that’s a stronger example of symphonic black metal than anything on the new Dimmu Borgir release, “The Conjuring” sounds like At the Gates played through a blender, and I’m not sure that triumphant-sounding, cinematic “Mortification of the Vulgar Sun” even qualifies as technical metal in the strictest sense. Diluvium, in other words, is fun; it feels like a great page turner you read on the beach, not an assigned summer school textbook you read under duress.

In a lot of ways, Diluvium feels like Obscura’s equivalent of Meshuggah’s Koloss — a response, conscious or otherwise, to all the bands that have hopped on their subgenre’s bandwagon in the past decade. Though some may be tempted to whine that it’s Obscura’s most accessible album, it’s actually their most rebellious, a giant middle finger to all those who would adopt and bastardize tech death. It’s almost as if Obscura are saying, “See, not only can we play our shit better than you, we can play your shit better than you.” Hey, it’s not cocky if it’s true.

Obscura’s Diluvium comes out Friday, July 13 on Relapse. You can stream the track “Ethereal Skies” here and pre-order it here.

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