If you love technical death metal as much as we do here, we implore you to get the new album from Obscura. Not only does the German band possess master playing skills, they also write some of the most intriguing songs you'll hear in metal today. The Gauntlet spoke with guitarist/vocalist Steffan Kummerer about the new album, their influences, and his impressions of the U.S.
The Gauntlet: The most obvious comparisons people make to the band are Cynic but I also hear some later period Pestilence, Gorguts, and even Atheist. How fair of an assessment is this?
Steffan Kummerer: Honestly I don't hear any influence of Gorguts in our sound, but I would agree with Cynic, Atheist and Pestilence. From my point of view you can also add some vibes of Emperor or Necrophagist. I really enjoy the bands you mentioned and own most of their albums, but I would not say we are a copy. If you compare their work with Cosmogenesis you recognize the difference. Our songwriting is more focused on the arrangements than on the complexity which stands for itself. You can not deny your roots and my biggest influence hve been and still are the originators of the early tech death metal wave.
The Gauntlet: Instead of going with a bigger name to produce Cosmogenesis you chose Vic Santura which some of our readers will know from Dark Fortress. I also heard that you weren't actually in the studio as a band but instead you went in and did your parts separately. Can you tell us about the recording process a bit?
Steffan Kummerer: Santura is known very well for his organic productions. He doesn't work with electronic drum sets and is a very talented engineer to record with. Besides that he is a close friend of mine and also produced our very first demo back in 2003. With his new studio, Woodshed Studios, Landshut Germany, he is able to work on more productions. It is true that we haven't recoded as band together in the studio which is very common these days. The whole process of recording took around three months; it is just not possible to stay there together that long time. Of course it is possible to work more effective if there is not a bored drummer behind you who don't have to do anything. All of the compositions where written before we hit the studio, so everybody in the band knew what to do and how the final product have to sound.
The Gauntlet: How did Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower, Blotted Science) get involved? I imagine since he's such a god in the technical-metal world it must have been a huge honor to have him onboard.
Steffan Kummerer: Jeroen came up with that idea to contact Ron. He contributed a wonderful guitar solo for the title track within 3 days after the first contact. Well, Ron sounds like Brian May would play death metal - just impressive!
The Gauntlet: I read that your bassist, Jeroen Paul Thesseling hadn't even played metal for the past few years and was just playing jazz and latin music. How much of an issue was that? Not that your songs don't have jazz-fusion parts within them.
Steffan Kummerer: In general every member has been able to contribute their ideas. If you have a different background, also some ideas differ. We tried to include even Jeroen's Jazz and Flamenco background to our sound and I guess we've been successful: the whole brightness of the sound is very fluid and nothing sounds forced - even if it is not a usual death metal riff or lick. With Jeroen and his fretless bass we have much more options for the compositions, than working with a solid bassist who just plays around the guitars, not as equal instrument.
The Gauntlet: You'll be touring in the States this spring with Cannibal Corpse, The Faceless, and Neuraxis. What is your impression of the U.S.?
Steffan Kummerer: I've never been in the USA so far, but I am looking forward to see something more than the usual Clich's of Pizza Hut and fat people. I guess there is much more interesting than these standards, especially in the culture and the mentality of the people. In Germany a very conservative mentality is a given, but in the US it is no problem to give up your job to tour with a band for one year around the world and get another job afterwards. Of course it seems like that. In Germany it is just not possible for example. Americans are ways more laid back than the 'have to be effective' Germans.
The Gauntlet: People imagine a band as technical as Obscura must be practicing all the time. Is there any truth to that?
Steffan Kummerer: That goes for Christian, definitely. He works as guitar teacher and is able to play the whole day. Hannes and myself practice regularly around two hours a day. Besides Obscura both of us are in the end of the studies, so there is no more time left for music so far. About Jeroen I don't have a clue if he is practicing all day and night.
The Gauntlet: Some bands get more technical with each release while some (Metallica) actually hold back and streamline their arrangements in time. Can you envision a day when Obscura do something like that?
Steffan Kummerer: Well, we still try to write songs in the first issue and focus on the arrangements, not on the technical aspects. Some parts are a bit more complex, true, but that is not the intention. Our aim is to write tracks interesting for both, musicians and metal fans who are not in a band. A fluent composition is much more important that the 17/8 sweeps against 5/4. I guess we are in that situation right now.
The Gauntlet: Name 5 bands every musician should own in their music library.
Steffan Kummerer: Cynic, Portishead, Krystof Penderecki, Dissection, and Jamiroquai are essential.