Obscura Front Man Steffen Kummerer Talks "Omnivium," Art, Evolution, And More
Band Photo: Obscura (?)
March 29th sees technical death metallers Obscura launch into space with a third cosmically crushing release titled "Omnivium" (reviewed here). The German lads from Obscura have taken the technicality to the next level, while still throwing in loads of melody and funky prog elements, for an album that's both blistering and musically appealing.
Seeking to illuminate metal fans on the band's upcoming release, vocalist/guitarist Steffen Kummerer talked about composing and recording the album, as well as explaining how the artwork has a special connection to the music and previous Obscura albums.
xFiruath: When was “Omnivium” written and how does Obscura generally approach writing new music?
Steffen: The new record was written within a period of two years. So since the beginning of the touring cycle for “Cosmogenesis,“ the previous album, we started immediately to write and compose the new album. As we do not live in the same city and do not have the option to rehearse on a regular basis, we compose on the computer where it is not necessary to have your instrument in front of you. The different parts and ideas will be sent to each member and we start to arrange the material until we are satisfied.
xFiruath: In your own words, how has the sound of the band changed since “Cosmogenesis?"
Steffen: The whole album sounds more mature, more like written from a real band, not of different members who contribute full songs. Also the production changed a bit due the fact that we used exactly the equipment of our live shows and made a few steps with new recording techniques. The acoustic guitars sound better and the drums are almost completely natural without editing. The whole dynamics of the album have more brightness and the vocals are better with a broader register.
xFiruath: While the music is definitely very heavy and incredibly technical, it seems like you guys still always make a point of ensuring the bass has a strong presence and can take the spotlight. Was that a conscious decision on the band’s part, or just something that came out while working on the album? A strong bass presence is a bit of an anomaly in extreme metal.
Steffen: Absolutely not. No one of the instruments is more in the spotlight than the other. Maybe it is a bit unique that the bass is audible within a metal record. In general there is no space for a only-lead instrument within the compositions. An album has to breath, to underline the dynamics but everything should be audible. If you want to hear a bass solo album, you‘re listening to the wrong band. Every member has the same space in the band, in the mix, and in the daily life, nothing else. Everything has to be in balance, anything else I do not accept.
xFiruath: Fill me in on the lyrics of this album and what they deal with.
Steffen: You can interpret the album and the concept within the lyrics and design in very different ways. In the same way I usually compose music I 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 of 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 bio chemics and the fourth layer of higher philosophy thoughts as well as the great discussion about religions. I love to play around with those ideas and see 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. For that whole idea of “Omnivium,” I used Friedrich Schelling's “On Nature's Connection to the Spirit World” and layered as described my own thoughts. I am pretty sure that talking about lyrics is one of the most boring things for each death metal fan out there, but maybe a handful of people are interested in this. For those few I am glad to write lyrics.
On all of the lyrics I 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.
xFiruath: How has the feedback been so far for this album from reviews and early listening sessions?
Steffen: The reviews where pretty positive and those who already had a chance to listen to it had the opinion that the album is the right step forward and the serious follow up to “Cosmogenesis.“
xFiruath: The album artwork that has been revealed so far is simply killer. Who handles the art and how is it connected to the music?
Steffen: Well, the artwork as well as the whole design and layout of each album, shirt, vinyl and everything that is related to Obscura is a very important thing for the band. In general we work with some kind of color schemes, color keys with each album. “Retribution” was the red album, “Cosmogenesis” is the blue one and with our third release “Omnivium” we finally reached the green album. With each color I associate several synonyms that are a part of a four album concept. The whole concept started with “Cosmogenesis” is the genesis, the emergence and formation of the universe which is extremely cold, out of a dark enigma which is a close relation to the blue color. This album represents all those ideas within the artwork I am still very satisfied with. To finally come to your question about “Omnivium.” This second out of four albums represents the part of the evolution in a very broad way. So in fact you see a combination of many synonyms e.g. the spermazoid you see in the cover art, the universe as link to “Cosmogenesis,” some futuristic complexion of extraterrestrial life combined with ordinary jellyfishes and the different ultimate elements.
For the evolution which you can interpret as a positive as well as a negative incident I thought about the green color which breeds in a neutral way. The whole artwork took a long time to grow, Orion Landau who also created the last two covers did a wonderful job bringing my ideas to a visible format and I am pretty happy about it. For me personally, Orion is somebody like a full member in the band. Without his work and his great input this album won't be the one it is right now. This may sound extremely nerdy, but I love to work on those tiny details within the designs and color keys among other things that represent the band on a visual basis.
xFiruath: Where are you guys headed to tour in support of “Omnivium?” On a side note, I’d commit multiple felonies and/or treason to see you guys play on the same bill with Barren Earth, Septicflesh, and Ihsahn, so just food for thought.
Steffen: We always work on the long therm for Obscura, so most of the year is filled with touring fo “Omnivium.“ First of all we will hit the road with Hate Eternal, Beneath The Massacre, and Defiled for a European Tour. During Summer we will come over to the US and Canada for a tour. That one will be official in a few weeks. Last year we played twice with Ihsahn and I had the chance to see both sets, great music, great performance.
xFiruath: Both “Omnivium” and “Cosmogenesis” were released through Relapse. At this point in time does it seem like the band will continue on that label in the future for the next release?
Steffen: We signed a multible album deal with Relapse. And we do not regret our decision to sign to them. We have a good relationship to them, also besides the business and besides the work. I don't see any point why we should change a running system. Relapse does a great job and support us as good as they can. On the other side nobody tells us what to do and the music and art is free to our vision.
xFiruath: Can we expect to see a music video for any of the tracks on this album?
Steffen: I would love to see that, unfortunately a good video does cost a lot of money within the production and it is not sure if it makes sense to have a video that is only played on YouTube. It depends on Relapse if they are interested in investing in a video.
xFiruath: How have your most recent tour dates been and have you seen anything really interesting or bizarre at concerts lately?
Steffen: Well, we've been twice on tour with The Black Dahlia Murder, that is bizarre enough I guess. Wasabi and fans are a weird combination.
xFiruath: What is your local metal scene like and does Obscura get the opportunity to play home town shows often?
Steffen: Just two days ago we played our first hometown show after four years in Landshut, Germany and it turned out very well. Many good old friends showed up and the location was packed. The local scene in Landshut and Munich is very strong and we have a few bands I am pretty sure you will hear about in a few years. Especially long running Dark Fortress, NoNeuclid, and Thulcandra are going to tour again.
xFiruath: What bands have you been enjoying lately?
Steffen: Dream Evil, Portishead, Defeated Sanity, and Emperor.
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