An Interview With Obscura Guitarist Christian Muenzner
Band Photo: Obscura (?)
The German death metal outfit Obscura has just recently finished recording their new album "Cosmogenesis" which will be released on February 17, 2009 through Relapse Records. Obscura's guitarist Christian Muenzner shared some insight with Metalunderground.com into the recording process for the new album and what's in store for the band in the future.
xFiruath: How would you describe the sound of Obscura to someone who had never heard your music before?
Christian: I would describe it as progressive death metal with a futuristic touch. The music has many contrasting elements which you don’t hear that much in Death Metal, such as counterpoint acoustic guitar parts, mellow fusiony moments, open chord stuff reminiscent of 70’s progressive rock and even clean vocals. You’ll also hear black metallish riffs and neoclassical northern sounding melodic fragments. The dynamics range from very soft and mellow moments to really brutal and technical stuff. We’re not a band strictly for musicians though. The music ain’t too complex in its structure and is quite compact, so that it ain’t too hard to follow for a non musician either. The main focus is on the songs and the atmosphere created, not on technical showcase.
xFiruath: When did you first get into music and what made you want to be a musician?
Christian: That was in the early 90’s when you would see all those famous heavy metal bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns’n’Roses, Megadeth, Ozzy and the like on MTV all day. I just thought that the sound and look of an electric guitar were just fucking cool, and I thought the guys who played them must be the coolest guys on earth, hehe. Something just clicked with me I guess.
xFiruath: Congratulations on getting worldwide release for your upcoming album “Cosmogenesis” through Relapse Records. How did you guys get hooked up with Relapse?
Christian: In early 2008 we recorded a demo CD of 3 songs and sent it around to various record labels. The guys at Relapse were really into it and thought it would fit their concept very well, and out of the offers we got we thought that Relapse would be the best choice to work with, and so the deal got together. The “old fashioned” way so to speak.
xFiruath: Tell me about the recording process for the new album. Did you work with Alex Krull again for production and did you employ any guest musicians from outside the band?
Christian: No, we didn’t work with Alex Krull this time. The album was produced by Vic Santura, the guitar player of Dark Fortress, who just recently opened his own studio this year called “Woodshed Studios”. The guy is a phenomenal musician, has a fantastic ear, is very good with engineering and very easy to work with. When you record with him, he instantly recognizes how a certain passage is meant and how you want it to sound like, and he’s very good with helping the musicians to get their vision going, if you know what I mean. The recording process was very relaxed and there wasn’t even once only remotely a stressful situation. There haven’t been any complications of any sort. Everything went so easy it was almost creepy. We (the band) never met during the recording sessions though, everyone was at the studio on his own at different sessions.
Yeah, we’re happy we got some beyond amazing guest solo contributions by Tymon from Cynic and Ron Jarzombek from Watchtower/Spastic Ink/Blotted Science. I think their fantastic solos alone would be reason enough for me to buy the album!
xFiruath: What is different about the sound of “Cosmogenesis” from your first release “Retribution?”
Christian: I think the sound of Retribution was more rough and straight in your face. Cosmogenesis is a little more polished and organized than the first album, although we hope it doesn’t come off as polished as most modern releases. The music has gotten more complex harmonically and rhythmically, the new record contains more guitar solos than the first one, and more elements from different musical genres have been added to the music.
xFiruath: “Cosmogenesis” seems to have a lot of outer space related themes. Would you say that this is a concept album, and if so what is the story behind the concept?
Christian: No, it’s not a concept album, it’s a theme album. Cosmogenesis describes the cosmological process of the creation of the universe, while it begins with the premise that consciousness is primary and that matter is only a manifestation of it; the world we live in and the reality we experience is nothing but a manifestation of a big collective consciousness evident in cosmos. All songs deal with that subject somehow, how the universe and our consciousness are linked.
xFiruath: There is a good deal of progressive and mellow elements to “Cosmogenesis” along with plenty of technical metal mayhem that your various band members are famous for. What prompted you guys to add in the new types of sounds and how do you go about deciding how a song will be structured?
Christian: Well, that came mainly by itself, as we’re not that type of death metal band who only listen to other death metal bands. In fact, everybody has a very wide range of musical tastes and influences. We all like progressive music and jazz/fusion stuff a lot. Jeroen (Jeroen Paul Thesseling – Obscura’s bass player) for example hasn’t been playing metal at all for the last 12 years or so and only played jazz, fusion, Latin and flamenco stuff. So we didn’t really say “we need as many different elements in our songs”, no, it rather fell into place automatically. The premise was that all the songs have a natural flow and nothing sounds forced. All the transitions had to be smooth and make sense. So if two parts don’t fit together, we don’t make them fit. We don’t want our music to sound choppy, in the end the song shall remain compact and catchy.
xFiruath: Obscura will be co-headlining the Euroblast Festival this upcoming February along with Dew Scented. Have you ever played with Dew Scented or any of the other bands at the festival before?
Christian: At the moment I don’t really know which other bands play there. I don’t know if Obscura ever played with Dew Scented before I was in the band. However, I know Leif from Dew Scented, I have met him when I was on tour with Necrophagist in the past. I think they are a very good live band who deliver a lot of energy in their songs on stage.
xFiruath: Other than Euroblast do you have any plans for touring after the new album comes out?
Christian: Yeah, actually we would like to play everywhere next year, we’ll see what happened. At the moment various offers and possibilities are discussed, but nothing is definite yet, so I can’t say too much about that now.
xFiruath: Obscura’s band members have played with some pretty big names in the death metal scene, but are there any bands you haven’t got to play shows with yet that you’d still like to?
Christian: Yeah, sure, we would like to play with many many different bands who’s audience we could attract as well. I think we would fit together with many different bands in the tech death, black metal or even the melodic death metal scene. Very cool would be opening for Metallica!
xFiruath: When you aren’t playing music, what is your favorite band or album to listen to?
Christian: That depends a lot on the mood I’m in, and I like so much different music. Some all time faves though would be stuff like Symphony X, early Dream Theater, Emperor, Iron Maiden, later Death, Dissection and of course lot of guitar stuff like Yngwie Malmsteen, Allan Holdsworth and that kind of thing.
xFiruath: That’s all my questions, so do you have any parting words for the fans?
Christian: I have to say thank you to all the people who have supported and encouraged us so nicely during the last year, although the record isn’t even out yet! Thanks for all your nice messages and enthusiasm! Hope to meet you all on tour very soon!
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