In taking the next step beyond their first decade of existence Westerwald, Germany based death metal band Obscure Infinity would undergo their second, and perhaps more impactful, line-up shift since forming as a quartet in 2007. The first would come in 2012 amidst the release of their sophomore full-length ‘Putrefying Illusions’ (2012) a well received underground bludgeon that’d bring their Monstrosity-meets-Necrophobic style of old school semi-melodic death metal to a wider consciousness. That record would rate highly on my best of 2012 list and a few years later ‘Perpetual Descending into Nothingness’ would break the top ten of my 2015 list as they would once again up the melodic ante. In the bubble of underground classic death metal permutations, where I am personally most comfortable, it had repeatedly struck me that such a class act would appear fairly undernourished outside of European death metal spheres. In anticipating the next step in Obscure Infinity‘s refined evolutionary path there was no sign that it’d be nearly a full four years in transit and as such I arrived upon its release with a rabid twitch in my eye. Though I don’t believe the line-up changes account for the natural ‘progress’ of the bands sound, it might be worth suggesting that the extra time spent fermenting ‘Into the Vortex of Obscurity’ and rejiggering the performers roles might account for its heightened melodic death and speed/heavy metal underpinnings.
2019 finds Obscure Infinity punching through the icy tomb of the German underground death metal they enrich and takes a few very bold stabs in loosening the well-trodden forms of melodic black metal and classic death metal they meshed so well in the past. To be sure they’ve not abandoned this sound and if anything they’ve amped up the death/thrash rip of their style on the first half of ‘Into the Vortex of Obscurity’. “Cosmic Disgrace” is perhaps the first toe upon uncommon ground with a “Subject to Spirit”-era Loudblast moment that later evolves into a contrapuntal dual guitar lead (see: A Canorous Quintet) near the end hinting at the history of Scandinavian black/death metal’s influence upon German death (and melodic death) metal (see: Apophis, Obscenity, etc.). Though the cues from Necrophobic and early Dissection are a long-standing and perhaps defining trait of Obscure Infinity it will still be somewhat surprising what follows on the way to Side B of this fourth full-length. “Grotesque Face” likewise stuns a bit with its stomping ‘n galloping heavy metal riffs throughout that build towards wailing dual guitar leads and fiery speed metal solos. Completely out of character for the band but, still somewhat in line with the lane they’d occupied previously.
Sacramentum‘s lesser celebrated ‘Thy Black Destiny’ is probably the most fitting reference for the direction the album takes beyond “Invoke Deliverance” in terms of this highly stylized future-take on their sound which eventually reveals itself as a focus upon classic heavy metal rhythms. It is the promise of that age old observation made when the Gothenburg sound hit, ‘death metal Iron Maiden‘ or whatever combination of NWOBHM influenced thrash guitar techniques set to extreme metal aesthetics, however you remember it. Obscure Infinity bring that idea to life with better taste injected into references towards epic heavy metal and speed metal. A melodic death metal album that is equally hard while shirking any reference to anything created beyond 1994 is a rare feat and the sort of gem not seen since those early-to-mid 90’s innovations. As much of a spectacle as this heightened lead-guitar slaying sound is it doesn’t always connect with the things I loved about Obscure Infinity in the past and I’m left feeling like the opener “Embrace Obscurity” is a tease in a heavier direction that never quiet lands back in the realm of ‘Perpetual Descending into Nothingness’. If the recording/production and final product was not handled so professionally by Jörg Uken (Obscenity, Sinister, Slaughterday) I think the steep induction into stylistic differences could have felt more severe. The final mix is so powerful in its sound that I found myself dismissing the initial discomfort of a perceived lost severity.
There is undoubtedly a progression of refinement in the works of Obscure Infinity as they strive forward in terms of technical ability and realize their musical goals in a variety of interesting ways. ‘Into the Vortex of Obscurity’ does ultimately feel like an album halfway comprised of surefire ideas while the other half consists of successful experiments that don’t always gel tonally with the heart of Obscure Infinity‘s comfort zone. It feels tentative in motion at times, sort of like the blustery debut from underrated Swedes Excretion (‘Voice of Harmony’) where they’ve nailed that heavy metal spirit but knocked over all of the fine china in getting there. I appreciate transformative moments more and more as I revisit ‘old school’ extreme metal discographies over time but in the moment and when faced with some positive (perhaps misdirected) anticipation this fourth album from the band doesn’t make a fluid introduction. The more I sat with it and just let Obscure Infinity do their thing from a more objective angle the more I appreciated what they’ve done with the album stylistically. It does give that intense (and rare) ‘The Somberlain’ sort of feeling and I appreciate that in an age where that era of melodic reference is completely diluted in the hands of the current generation of metal musician. I can highly recommend this fine German death metal album with the caveat that established fans can expect an album heavily soaked in melodic black/death and heavy metal history. Highly recommended. For preview I’d say “Embrace Obscurity” could straight up sell this record to most classic death metal fans but make sure you listen to the epic tale of “Swallowed in Time and Darkness” before you pull the trigger.
Thus spoke thou burning tongue. 4.25/5.0
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