South of Heaven: Obscura and guests in Oslo

image - see following caption
Steffen Kumere of Obscura during interview
Photo: Kenneth Sporsheim / eternal-terror.com

Obscura’s 2012 tour aimed at promoting their latest release, Omnivium, brought the Germans to the smaller stage of Chateau Neuf in Oslo, together with their 3 support acts: Exivious from the Netherlands, Gorod from France and Spawn of Possession from Sweden. For me personally, the event started earlier than the moment when the first tune was played on stage, since I had the chance to conduct two interviews prior to that: one with Dennis Röndum from Spawn of Possession and one with Steffen Kummerer of Obscura.

Besides finding out more or less new stuff about the two bands, some insights of the current tour and some general ideas about life, the two chats left the impression of a very good mood among the bunch of people stuck together for about a month on the roads and through the bars and clubs of Europe. It also set some expectations for a quality show that could easily fry your brain, both turning out quite true. It felt like I was seeing bits of a “Big four” concert, centered on technical Death metal.

I was a bit surprised that an event with such names on the bill wasn’t held in the main hall (aka Betong) at Chateau Neuf, as previous editions were, but I must admit the organisers set up everything right in the small Klubbscene. The opening act, Exivious, came with an instrumental set that managed to set up high standards for the quality of musicianship for that evening. Their fusion style filled with witty riffs and fills and bass lines didn’t leave you much time to decide whether it’s metal or jazz pouring into your ears, but whatever it was felt genuine. For those interested in more than music, Exivious also offers the chance to see Cynic members live.

If, for any reason, fans gathered to see/hear an authentic death metal show didn’t enjoy the first act, their reasons to complain ended as soon as Gorod entered the stage. The deep growls took over, the drums started blasting and it felt like the speed of the guitars gained a gear or two. I am not familiar with the band’s music, but I bet they have tried to promote their latest release, A Perfect Absolution. However, whatever album they were playing from, it was an impressive organised chaos that mixed high quality death metal with beautiful melodies and solos, leaving the overall feeling of well composed materials.

image - see following caption
Spawn of Possession live@South of Heaven, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / StudioRock

I think the next band was really inspired with the name they picked, since indeed it sounded as the darkest of demons might emerge at any time from a stage corner and take over the show of Spawn of Possession. They are also proudly promoting their latest release, Incurso, a 5 year awaited album that seems to be very well received by fans and critiques. For guitar solos on the album, the band used Obscura’s guitarist, Christian Müenzner, but due to some problems he was not able to play both shows live, hence SoP used a replacement for the tour. It seems to be a rather doomed position in the band since the poor guy damaged his leg and has to walk around with a crutch. He brought a chair on stage, but by the time the show started he decided it’s better to stand up and hit the lights on the ceiling with his head. Brutal and high quality music; insane and plenty of guitar solos; tight, powerful and fast drumming with small, almost cozy technical jazzy fragments that were delightful; strong vocal support and neat high paced bass line. Plus a constant feeling of originality, as the band never bothers to linger much in the same pattern. Or at least it’s how it felt. These are just small details of the show of a band who seems happy to be back, both on stage and with a new release that is so well appreciated.

image - see following caption
Obscura live@South of Heaven, Oslo
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu / StudioRock

Another quick instrument change, sound check and all is set for the evening’s headliners, Obscura, and more minutes of brutality and technicality for those who had the brain to digest it. While the previous two bands would stay more within the boundaries of what one might view as death metal, the Germans are not shy in playing around with unexpected sounds and beats that define their progressive line, bringing epic elements that you encounter more often in other genres. Visually, Obscura gets the first prize, as they used small fans placed on the floor in front of the stage to enhance the hair “flow”. I actually kept thinking that the band should be sponsored by a conditioner producer, since all the three members in front have long hair and enjoy headbanging. The band’s music has something for everyone, especially for bass lovers since there seemed to be very cool bass parts all over the songs. The virtuosity and tightness in guitar playing makes one wonder if they decided to somehow bring the best guitarists of the genre in one evening. On top of the speedy power riffs, one cannot miss the soft intermezzos, usually plain beautiful pieces. I got captivated quite often by the drumming style with its intensity and constant usage of the entire drum kit. To the crowd’s delight, we got treated with a brilliant drum solo.

As I was saying at the beginning of the review, I started the evening with the impression of a good and positive mood and nothing has changed by the end of the evening. Every stage “change” in between bands was done very relaxed, everyone played with joy and smiles on their faces and all these, plus the really high quality of the music and the musicians on stage, made the South of Heaven event another special experience. The sad part was the the attendance was not very high. But well, their loss. The tour is still going for few weeks in Europe, so I highly recommend you go and catch this combo at a venue nearby. And get good earplugs.


By Andrea Chirulescu