Hopefully you like songs describing the collapse of the universe in the most convoluted way possible, because Obscura have given you ten more of them. Diluvium is the fifth release from this German, progressive technical death band and the final in a series of related concept albums. The concept of Diluvium is almost too all-encompassing, as nearly all the songs are similar both lyrically and in their instrumentation. Minor shortcomings aside, Obscura once again display nearly unmatched technical skills, effortlessly blending intimidating guitarwork with entrancing melodics, making Diluvium one of their strongest releases to date.
Fans of Obscura will immediately recognize their signature sounds—blistering, yet effortless riffing; abrupt but smooth transitions; agonized harsh vocals alongside digitized, monotone cleans, and meandering, fretless bass. Where Diluvium diverges from its brethren is in how thoroughly it maintains its tone. The instrumentation, lyrics, and production give the whole package a futuristic, entirely astral feel. All of the clean vocals are given an almost robotic sound, emphasizing the overly technical terminology uttered throughout the album.
The lyrics are easily the weakest aspect of the album. They are both too convoluted and too meaningless at the same time. Every song is a different vague description of the universe collapsing in on itself, plunging us into infinite, unified darkness. The album succeeds in capturing the epicness of such an event, and that’s about it. None of the songs stick out lyrically, with two slight exceptions. “The Seventh Aeon” offers a more religious perspective, using phrases like “unhallowed black sermon…in boundless spirit, the faith of gods,” and “deceived of faith, emanated and ruptured in creed.” Similarly, “An Epilogue to Infinity” refers to the end of the universe as “dissolving in aeons of perennial black mass.” This track is also the only one written in first-person.
The lyrics are beyond wordy. Someone got a little too infatuated with scientific terminology. In “Ethereal Skies” alone, you will encounter such words as: alternation, absolution, conflagration, primordial condition, cosmogenesis, retrogression, and sempiternal neutrality. They basically looked up every word meaning “exploding star” and jammed it in there somewhere. My favorite image, however, has to be “congealed in perpetual spleen.” Now, I must admit that I was unaware that “spleen” can also mean “anger,” but “congealed” makes me wonder which usage they were going for. I’m hoping they are truly likening the singularity to all humanity being combined into one giant spleen. Or, maybe it’s a silly translation error. I should point out that Obscura are from Germany, and thus we might expect English isn’t their first language. If I had to write in German, I’m sure I would accidentally describe us as being one big doughnut or something far less metal than “spleen.”
Obscura are hardly alone when it comes to word choice. The jargon is a staple of technical prog death, and if we are being honest, you’re not going to be paying much attention to the words. To be clear, I actually really enjoy the vocals. The modulation effect on the cleans works for me, especially when they are harmonized with the harsh vocals. The guitar tones work as well—nice and clean, allowing the impressive technical finger work to sound almost leisurely. I also approve of the fretless bass, masterfully played by Linus Klausenitzer. The tone of the bass emphasizes some of the truly excellent bass melodies that Klausenitzer delivers. I’m reminded of Beyond Creation, and that’s a good thing.
Though Diluvium is full of tantalizing moments, I couldn’t help but notice a formula to the majority of the tracks. Nearly all of them slow in tempo and then deliver a guitar solo at exactly halfway through. I’m all for shifts in sound—in fact, I wouldn’t consider Obscura progressive without them, but the change-ups ironically became predictable.
That being said, Diluvium is undoubtedly the most progressive release Obscura have produced. There are some truly beautiful melodic sections, as well as some additional strings, and plenty of beat changes. Because their technical chops are so impressive, the moments they pull back and deliver soulful passages are all the more impactful. The strongest example would be the bonus track, “A Last Farewell,” which I feel is a vital addition to the end of the album. It’s a short instrumental that captures all the emptiness Diluvium portends, successfully capturing the essence of an endless, unified void. Without these two and a half minutes, there is literally zero narrative shift in either the lyrics or the music—but with them, I’m buying the whole premise.
“Mortification of the Vulgar Sun” is another standout track. It opens with three different guitar sections in rapid succession that act as a sort of thesis for the track to come. This track has some of the grooviest, heaviest riffs as well as some of the most airy acoustic parts. Obscura pull away a bit from the technical playing and focus more on melody with this one, at times sounding more like old-school Opeth. There’s also a pretty stellar music video that goes along with it.
You will find moments that stick out to you on Diluvium, but the whole thing is pretty excellent. I was disappointed in the consistency of Obscura’s previous album, Akroasis—though its title track is still my favorite Obscura to date—but Diluvium is solid throughout. Every track is redeemable, and my only criticism is that the themes both lyrically and musically are too homogeneous. Basically, if you dig the first track, the rest will do nicely. If you aren’t one for harsh vocals but want to hear some mind-blowing guitarwork, stick it out. These boys can play.
FAVORITE TRACK: “Mortification of the Vulgar Sun”
RELEASE DATE: 7/13/2018
FOR FANS OF: Beyond Creation, Fallujah