Steffen Kummerer – vocals & guitars
Christian Münzner – guitars
Jeroen Paul Thesseling – bass
David Diepold – drums
Germany-based metal band Obscura launch trilogy concept on stunning new album A Valediction. The group’s first (sixth overall) album for Nuclear Blast pivots on many fronts. Advanced, elegant, and yet refreshing, A Valediction sums up past endeavors effortlessly as it gazes with purpose and conviction into the future. Obscura are fan-renowned and critically acclaimed for challenging and then expanding upon norms. From Cosmogenesis (2009) through Diluvium (2018), the band flourished and made significant progress in a musical genre unprepared for a creative shot of German invention. A Valediction spearheads Obscura into a new era of extreme metal.
Guitarist/vocalist Steffen Kummerer founded Obscura in 2002. Early on, he set out to improve, redefine, and push forward. Under his self-label creation, the Bavarian released debut album Retribution (2006), followed by heavy touring throughout Europe. Word quickly spread that a brand-new band from the south of Germany was on the rise. Buzz lead to a deal with U.S.-based Relapse Records. The first record out was Cosmogenesis. In Europe, Metal Hammer Germany awarded the album 6/7 while in the U.S. Cosmogenesis hit the Billboard charts at #71. The cross-continental praise and fevered momentum landed Obscura on high-profile tours in Europe, North America, and Japan.
When follow-up Omnivium arrived in 2011, they upped their chart success (Billboard #11; Media Control #14), received more accolades from publications like Terrorizer, Rock Hard, and Decibel, had another massive round-world tour cycle, while enhancing and making progress on their clever brutality. Obscura further developed their sound on Akróasis (2016). Moored by jaw-dropping tracks like “Sermon of the Seven Suns,” “Ode to the Sun,” and the title track, Akróasis elevated Obscura to the highest levels of international renown, having climbed up the Billboard charts (#5) as well as earning top marks in Rock Hard (8.5/10), Metal Hammer Germany (6/7), and Revolver (4/5). The Germans toured the world yet again, playing over 100 shows in support of Akróasis.
Obscura’s most significant accomplishment was, however, just around the corner. The final part of a tetralogy, Diluvium (2018), fiercely pursued Obscura’s multi-album transformation into musical innovators and metal powerhouses. Music videos for the title track, “Emergent Evolution” and “Mortification of the Vulgar Sun,” in concert with a substantial interest in virtuosic, forward-thinking metal, posited Obscura in the good graces (yet again) of the worldwide press in addition to rocketing up, for the very first time, the official album charts in Germany (#58) and Switzerland (#93). The Germans also topped out at #3 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart with Diluvium.
Obscura’s stats have been impressive: Twenty years active; six highly prized albums; over 600 shows on four continents. Worldwide fan and press engagement—the videos for “The Anticosmic Overload,” “Akróasis,” and “Diluvium” have over 4.5 million views—is only getting stronger the longer Obscura continue to offer up and interact with (via play-throughs and member/gear spotlights) their very captive audience. This is only the tip of Kummerer’s custom ESP guitar, however. A Valediction finds Obscura turning the page to a new chapter in the band’s evolution. A year in the works, the songwriting sessions followed a new approach, where the framework was relaxed, allowing new inspirations, imagining, and opportunities to arise. Songs like the opening epic “Forsaken,” the ’80s-tinted “When Stars Collide” (featuring Soilwork/The Night Flight Orchestra frontman Björn Strid), the brutal groove of “Devoured Usurper,” the ethereal artistry of “Heritage,” and the fleet-fingered title track benefitted compositionally (refined structures) and aesthetically (more dynamism) from Obscura’s restyled songwriting stratagem.
Obscura wrote, recorded, and finalized A Valediction during the pandemic. The stipulations of working during this time allowed Obscura to work cross-country, tracking each respective part—drums, guitar, and bass—in national studios across The Netherlands, Austria, and Germany. Once the pieces were completed, the recordings were shipped off to award-winning producer Fredrik Nordström and Studio Fredman (In Flames, Architects) in Gothenburg, Sweden, where Kummerer and Münzner completed vocals and acoustic guitars using custom-built ENGL amps. Nordström was also tapped to mix and master. The final result is a deeper, heavier, yet more rounded production.
Lyrically, A Valediction is layered in structure and meaning. The word ‘valediction,’ by definition, deals with goodbyes and farewells. In a way, this is auf wiedersehen to the four-part album series while also addressing complex topics of Kummerer’s personal life. Instead of obscuring issues of loss, death, and abandonment in metaphor and allusion, the German laid bare his torment across songs like “Forsaken,” “Solaris,” “In Unity,” “The Neuromancer,” and “In Adversity.” But for every line of desperation, he also offers positivity. Indeed, new beginnings—physical, emotional, or environmental—can provide light in the darkness. Lauded artist Eliran Kantor (Testament, Helloween) was brought on board to visualize the leitmotif. The bronze-themed colorway Kantor used exemplifies Obscura’s resistance to individual and sonic corrosion.
In 2021, Obscura will lighthouse their musical prowess, thematic complexity, and lyrical ambition on A Valediction. The group continue to be a beacon for change. No doubt Obscura’s new stats will amaze, but what they’re focused on is the release of A Valediction and then taking it on the road. Several high-caliber tours of Europe, North America, and Asia are planned through to 2023, with routes are in the works for the band to visit Australia, South America, and beyond. Truly, there is no band quite like Obscura. A Valediction proves that persistence, perseverance, and enterprising minds can achieve anything. Welcome to the next level!