Over the last few years, Obscura has had some extreme highs with the success of “Omnivium,” which I thought was brilliant to some definite challenges losing half the band rather abruptly. How did you weather the storm? I am sure many people assumed Obscura was finished!
Lineup changes are something every band deals now and then, unfortunately. Finding new members is time consuming and holds back everyone. You mentioned the latest change, but you are talking about members that have been in the band since a few years while I am running the ship since more than a decade. In 2014 we came to the point where solo careers have been more important or enjoyable so we split in a mature way, discussed all matters intern and two members left. Together we wrote two successful records I am as proud as every release we have been able to publish in the past, but I rather look forward, not backwards. The new record sounds exactly like this band should and there is a clear musical, lyrical and visual handwriting to see and hear. Listening to our back catalogue, there are in every album parts I would rather bring to the next level and progress here as a band. “Akroasis” blends this way of work perfectly.
Bassist Linus Klausenitzer seems to have been “caught in the middle” so to speak. Has it been hard to “share” him?
We plan months in advance with Obscura and our side projects have to respect that. So far we haven’t had to face scheduling conflicts with any of our other bands. Obscura is an international touring act, while our other projects or bands work on a different level.
Tell me how you found Rafael Trujillo and Sebastian Lanser.
Sebastian Lanser is a well-known drummer within the art, rock and metal scene in Europe. Within the metal scene especially the band Panzerballett shines through many other acts with their unique combination of Jazz & Metal. Aside from playing metal, Sebasitan works with Martin Grubinger, a worldwide respected Austrian Percussionist with a huge following. Linus Klausenitzer met Sebastian at a music fair in Germany (Frankfurter Musikmesse) some time ago and has been in touch a few times. We knew about his abilities and work, so we meet a few times, shared our ideas and immediately started to work on “Akroasis”. His understanding of rhythm and spinning odd-times in our prog death metal context brought a new level to our band. Aside from his musical input, he is a very positive guy and became a good friend of everyone in the group.
Rafael joined the band after the recordings of our new album in October/November 2015. He graduated from Munich Guitar Institute, MGI and studies Jazz at Amsterdam Conservatorium, University of Arts sine last year. Rafael is in first place a metal head, but with his knowledge in theory, harmony and long experience with different artists he brings some fresh ideas to the table when it comes to writing new music. He collaborated a few times with Sebastian Lanser in various projects and proofed his character and guitar skills in various meetings. Right now we all prepare our upcoming shows and tours to present our new members and of course the new songs to our fans in a live situation.
What impact did they each have on the sound of “Akroasis”?
Sebastian has a very different view on groove and how to arrange drumlines to underline the overall arrangement, but also bring a new level to each song. He prepares his lines like no one I ever worked with – every fill, every beat was written by hand on sheet music prior entering the studio. Also, Sebastian plays very controlled to get a certain drum and cymbal sound that fits to the songs. Recordings drums with him was a pleasant experience and I am looking forward to record the next album together as soon as possible. His impact together with Linus Klausenitzer as the core rhythm section was a new dimension of sound for this band. Both brought this album to a more interesting and challenging level from my opinion. We opened our view to a broad range of tempos, rhythms and diverse grooves and aside from writing songs, this rhythm section made “Akroasis” special and sounding different. In sum, both of them brought their own musical fingerprint into the band and shaped the sound of our new record as a whole.
What are some of your influences both vocally and musically? I’ve always heard both Death and obviously Gorguts.
There is a row of bands and artists that influenced me during the past 15 or 20 years. In the very beginning Death, Pestilence, Atheist and Cynic had their impact to me as a musician. On the other hand, also black metal had its share. Bands such as Dissection, Emperor and Sacramentum had been heavy influences within the first years. In my twens I discovered more different music, Rock, Prog Rock, 70ies prog but also Triphop such as Portishead and their utterly abysmal feeling had their place. I still love to discover new bands from various genres and these days there are more and more promising acts raising up. Good times for creative music. During the last ten years it was my aim to form our own sound, something that tells you “ah, that’s must be Obscura” after listening to ten seconds into any song. Getting an own identity so to say. While there have been clear influences in the very beginning, that is where our roots are, this band evolved into something own between prog death, thrash and black metal. That is the path I want to go without neglecting our roots – being a death metal band.
After listening to “Akroasis,” it really feels tighter and more progressive than anything you’ve done previously. Is this a fair statement? And was there a conscious decision to go a certain direction on this album versus other releases?
After releasing a new records every artist points out a few details he would like to change with the next album and that also happened to me. We changed the way how to compose and arrange songs in its entirely, we went the long road of working analog and our live equipment only, the production, and especially, the drum sound, changed completely to our previous records although we worked with our long-term producer once again. Especially writing more diverse songs focusing more on rhythm than speed was a conscious decision. Workign on “Akroasis” turned out to be a healthy mix of ideas we brought together prior writing new material and songs that evolved quite naturally from the beginning.
There are song on “Akroasis” that, for me, are some of the best songs you’ve written. Particularly, “Weltseele” which is a true epic. Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
Every song has its moments and we choose those eight songs out of 15 we wrote for the record since we felt something special within each composition. My favorite tracks are “Perpetual Infinity” with a row of new elements and a killer chorus and “Sermon of the Seven Suns”, the first track that was written for the album. It feels smooth like one big piece, but underneath the surface, the rhythmic variations are beyond everything we came up to this day. Listen to the music analytic – then you get a clue what I mean.
I know you’ll be touring to support “Akroasis,” what are some of the plans you have?
We are about to support Death DTA once again and play a European tour in early 2016. During Summer we hit most of the common festivals in Europa and Asia before we finally travel down under to tour Australia, later India and South America. Also, we are working on a major North American and European tour for the end of 2016, so watch out we will publish every month new dates.
Steffen, thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with this killer record!
Thank you for the interview & see you on the road!
Album Review: progressivemusicplanet.com/2016/02/01/obscura-akroasis