One of the highlights so far this year is the new album by German technical death metal outfit Obscura. The album is called Omnivium and it’s quite a dazzling musical adventure into the realm of progressive death metal. On behalf of the band drummer Hannes Grossmann happily answered all my questions regarding Omnivium, the writing and recording process and the releases he’s looking forward this year…
Thank for doing this interview with Home Nucleonics. Your new album, entitled Omnivium, has become a very strong release in terms of technical skill, compositions and quite a leap forward compared to Cosmogenesis. Are you happy the way it turned out?
Yes, extremely happy. It turned out to sound exactly the way we wanted to and we can 100% identify with the music and the lyrical concept.
Cosmogenesis is still a very strong album in terms of technicality and songwriting. Did you guys felt any pressure while writing and recording of Omnivium?
We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves, because we want to come up with something better every time we record or write. The technicality isn’t too important for us, it just happens. We naturally play on a pretty high level, and the complexity of the songs in terms of playing is necessary just because we want to make certain riffs sound in a certain way. It was a huge challenge to record the material. But in general we don’t care about what others expect from us and how we’re “supposed” to sound like. We have a strong signature sound that has become more obvious with Omnivium and that was the main thing we had in mind before writing the album.
How did the writing and recording process go for Omnivium?
Gradually. All in all it took two years to complete the songs. We never rehearsed any of the songs or parts before we recorded the album. We just wrote out the ideas on note sheets. Thus we had a good overview of the songs and could find the best possible structure. By playing riffs in the rehearsal room, usually on a high volume, you forget to listen to what you’re actually playing. The most important thing when writing songs is to have a vision or idea of what the song should finally sound like in terms of drive, melodies, structure and dynamic. And with such complex music it’s better to write it down, otherwise you get lost. So it was more of a composing process like classical composers would write pieces rather than a typical band – songwriting process. Not the usual way but it worked very well. Next time we’re probably chosing another method.
There seems to be a central theme or concept on the album that ties all the songs together. Is there such a thing and if so, can you elaborate on that?
For that whole idea of Omnivium, Steffen (our singer and guitarist) used Friedrich Schelling’s ‘On Nature’s Connection to the Spirit World’ and layered as described his own thoughts. You can interpret the album and the concept within the lyrics and design in very different ways. In the same way we usually compose music, we try to build a main basis and layer it with different other ideas until the result is a satisfied reader. Here you have the obvious story of the concept ape to human on a visual view, but as evolution I also see a very poetic and philosophic link as we as humans develop new views and deeds as well as a third layer of biochemicals and the fourth layer of higher philosophy thoughts as well as the great discussion about religions. I love seeing how readers, friends and fans in the same way interpret all ideas in a different way. The focus within the lyrics is based on the higher philosophy and the discussion within different religions. On all of the lyrics I also have a personal opinion, a personal preference and a different view on the topic itself especially on the point with religions. There is always a link to the real life, those ideas never get old. But, I do not tell people what to do, what to think or how to live their life. With Omnivium everyone should find his own truth.
What I really like about Omnivium is that you’ve managed to retain the trademark Obscura sound, but managed to expand your sound with the use of acoustic guitars, more clean vocoder processed vocals and more prog orientated song structures. Septuagint, Prismal Dawn and Aevum are great examples of that. Was this something you were aiming while writing the record?
But all these things we have already been using on Cosmogenesis. Songs like Centric Flow, Infinite Rotation and Orbital Elements are progressive metal, nothing else! Omnivium is just the logical consequence to Cosmogenesis.
Two other remarkable songs are Ocean Gateways and Celestial Spheres. The first song has the same vibe and feeling of Morbid Angel’s Where The Slime Live and Celestial Spheres has this typical Cynic feel about it and could easily been included on Traced In Air. Are these songs meant as a sort of tribute to these highly influential bands?
Ocean Gateways is influenced by Morbid Angel, no doubt about that. Gateways to Annihilation is one of our favorite death metal albums. It’s not a tribute however, but when you play a half time feel and slow song including 7-String guitars and double kick patterns, you’ll always sound a bit like Morbid Angel. But that’s ok it guess, so many great bands have been influenced by Morbid Angel, even bands like Opeth.With Celestial Spheres it’s different. I wrote the music for that song and had no intentions of sounding similar to Cynic. The song is influenced by a piano piece of Aziza Mustafa Zadeh, a Jazz piano player from Azerbaijan. I just like her mellow approach to harmonies and wanted to express something that also transport an even melancholic feeling.
Your bass player, Jeroen Paul Thesseling is also an active member for Pestilence. Their new record will see the light of day somewhere in April and Omnivium is due for the end of March. How are you guys going to arrange this in terms of promotional and touring activities?
As Pestilence isn’t playing and touring that much there’s not a conflict between both bands. Jeroen’s obligation with Pestilence is more on a session basis. Jeroen is really working a lot, also working in a full-time job. I wouldn’t call him a workaholic, but of course his day has only 24 hours, haha. So whenever he’s got the opportunity to play live it’s a great thing for him, leaving his desk and go on stage. Not forgetting that Pestilence made two great albums in the early 90s.
When you look at death metal as a whole there are a couple of leading bands with an original sound and a host of bands who are trying to emulate that. Obscura is clearly inspired by later day Death and Cynic, but at least you guys have managed to find a distinct sound of your own. What are your thoughts on this?
Let me say so much: There are always leading bands that inspire newer bands, like Merciful Fate inspiring Morbid Angel, Morbid Angel or Celtic Frost inspiring Opeth, Bathory inspiring Emperor. But of course you get inspired by something you like. Nevertheless it’s more important not to copy others but take those influences and make it your own vision. This is the hardest part of writing music and takes a lot of patience, dedication and work. Many bands don’t have the time, the guts or the talent to achieve an own sound. But as I said, it’s the hardest thing for any writer to achieve his own signature. So I don’t blame anyone to make slight copies.
What releases of this year are you particularly looking forward to and why?
Symphony X. Why? Because they’re one of the best bands out there! Period. A new Morbid Angel album would be great as well. Their “new” song Nevermore is pretty strong. Dream Theater‘s new album should be interesting since they have a new drummer. And of course the new Blotted Science, because I’m playing on it, hahaha.
Time for the final question. What’s on the Obscura agenda for the next couple of months?
We’ll play both, an EU and an US mayor market tour. Besides that launching our upcoming webstore. I’m producing an instructional drum DVD at the moment which you can order thru my website (www.hannesgrossmann.com) so my schedule is pretty filled!
Written by Raymond Westland