It's been five years since German death-prog quartet OBSCURA dropped its well-toasted "Omnivium" album. Since then, Steffen Kummerer and Linus Klausenitzer watched guitarist Christian Muenzner and drummer Hannes Grossmann leave the band as Rafael Trujillo (no relation to fellow bassist Robert) and Sebastian Lanser have since taken their places. Muenzner reportedly left over creative differences in addition to suffering muscular spasms (focal dystonia), while Grossmann's set out to do his own thing. One would have to think playing in a demanding, theory-trained band can potentially mince a metal musician to bits.
Choosing to title its fourth album "Akroasis", translating from Greek as representative of hearing or listening, OBSCURA demands a lot of attention from its listeners on this album. They also give us a lot to chew on as "Akroasis" hurls one technical paroxysm after another.
"Sermon of the Seven Suns" is seven minutes of raucous death-grind and slicing bass scales. Upon arrival of the breakdown, OBSCURA pits Rafael Trujillo against bassist Linus Klausenitzer in a jerking prog duel that only grows more intense as the velocity resumes and the two men shred and pluck like madmen. Steffen Kummerer ralphs incrementally as the crazed instrumentation takes center stage, here and on the next track, "The Monist". Kummerer wields his cruelest death barfs and black metal swills, but it's the square off between Trujillo and Klausenitzer that draws the most attention.
The title track is both savage and supple as Sebastian Lanser risks bone spurs in his knees from dropping insanely quick blast patterns, while the rest of the band sins their own dirvishes of virtuosity. "Perpetual Infinity" flails loads of thrashing, VOIVOD-esque progressions. The fifteen-minute finale, "Weltseele", is a triumph with a beautifully composed orchestral section in the middle of the milling heaviness around it. Taking a woozy, Faustian turn or two along the way, "Weltsteele" is geeked-out metal lore with more parts shoved into it than a stock car engine.
There's no further way to elaborate how OBSCURA's music works other than to invite the listener to strap in and hold on for a rocket ride of shred-prog. OBSCURA's inhuman speed and technique is special, even if the band tends to hit the repeat button at times in terms of songwriting. It's a minute complaint at best, as "Akroasis" is filled more with wonder than anything else.