Obscura are ready for the next chapter as their new album, A Valediction, will be released on November 19th via Nuclear Blast (pre-order here). We caught up with the group’s mastermind Steffen Kummerer to discuss their latest effort and the overall changes the German progressive death metal outfit has encountered between 2018’s Diluvium from Relapse Records to Nuclear Blast.
Obscura have faced quite a few changes this year. How did they affect the overall creative process for A Valediction?
Well, we just finished a big, big, big chapter for the band with releasing Diluvium in 2018, four albums have been connected, and we worked on this chronology for about 10 years. So there was basically a blank page in front of us, and we were able to start from scratch. I would even call it like a reincarnation of the band since we changed many, many things around the group. For example, we work with Nuclear Blast now, we worked with Fredrik Nordström. So we changed the studio and producer. We also altered the cover artwork artist. We work with Eliran Kantor now, while we worked for a very, very long time with Orion Landau. So many, many, many changes, but what stays is the music.
It’s a really good album. And I was curious because it does sound like a new beginning. What was it like completing the new album during the pandemic?
Well, that was a part that was obviously not planned. So we made the best out of it. We were supposed to enter the studio roughly half a year earlier, but we had to change simply because the band members don’t live in the same country. Our bassist is living in the Netherlands and our drummer in Austria, while the two guitarists live in Germany. So borders were closed. We had to reschedule everything. And in the end we decided to record all files or all instruments in national studios. So the bass got recorded in the Netherlands, the drums in Austria, guitars here in Germany and I was flying over to Gothenburg to record acoustic guitars and vocals with Project Nordstrom at Studio Fredman. So that all changed a lot, but the extra time we gained, we simply used to work on many, many details of the arrangements of the pre-production overall. Tiny little details are maybe only the musicians might hear but in overall and at the bottom line, I think the album gained a lot and the recordings went through extremely smoothly. We had more time to prepare everything that was prepared already for the studio session. We planned in the initial place. I’m very happy how it turned out. I think you can hear the excitement and joy we had recording the album.
Yes, it’s very strong. I enjoyed the video for the title track. What was the experience like for you creating the video?
That was quite fun because since we were not sure when we have been or would be able to tour again, we simply try to put our focus on the music production and also those behind the scenes material that is more or less like documenting how the album turned out and came together. So those music videos are produced with Mirko Witzki, quite a renowned artist from Germany who also worked with many, many other artists like Powerwolf, Kreator, and many more to come. We rented for this particular song and also Solaris, the first single that came out of quite a huge film studio in Düsseldorf, Germany. So everybody flew over and it was actually the first time the entire band met for the first time, because during the pandemic, we couldn’t see each other. We have been in touch by email, by Skype, by all the social media outlets. But in the end, when we were recording the music videos we met for the first time in the same room. So quite a challenge.
Can you talk more about the song Solaris?
Well, Solaris has been the first single we released simply because we thought we should show our fanbase that the change in the band is not that huge. And at the same time it was one of the shortest songs we ever wrote. So it’s pretty much straight. It contains everything the band is known for. And I love the hook line. It’s a fantastic song.
With having a new approach, and starting over, were there any songs that were more challenging to write or was it a more refreshing process?
It’s both. First of all, we had this approach of writing songs for an album that has to be performed live. During every song we already thought, okay, how would this sound on stage? How would it look on stage? How are we able to pull it off on stage? Because it’s quite easy to compose material that is super demanding, but well, the live shows prove if you’re a good artist or not. So we really had an eye on that. And on the other hand, it was quite free to write whatever you want. And some of the songs they’ve been done within days and a few songs, they took a very, very long time. For example, the opening track “Forsaken” was actually meant to be the opening track for the previous album, but somehow it didn’t feel finished at the time. And we even cut out many, many, many parts. I think the first version was close to 10 minutes playing time, between nine and 10 minutes. So we cut out a couple of pieces and it just felt finished when we thought, okay, it’s done now.
Looking at all these different changes and the challenges, this year also marks the 10th anniversary of Omnivium. Can you share any highlights that you remember from recording this record?
For Omnivium, back in the days I remember the studio session was quite demanding because at the time we didn’t produce any pre-production. So we just composed and wrote the entire album and went straight to the studio. But in the studio we had to rearrange a lot. So that was quite demanding. And I remember we played a couple of wonderful tours for this album. It was the first time we went to Asia, no, to Southeast Asia before we went to Japan. But this was the first time we played shows in Dubai, in Indonesia, in Thailand, in Singapore. And I also remember a fantastic, very long and successful tour with Children of Bodom and Devin Townsend back in, I think 2011, roughly 10 years ago. So many memories, long time ago.
Speaking of touring, they’re either happening or not due to the ongoing pandemic. What have you guys been doing to prepare for the upcoming tour?
Well, first of all, we also used the extra time we had during the pandemic to build a proper stage show. So together with our crew, I designed an entire new setup. We started to program and build a lot of equipment on our own. So that would be very, very funny to see and well many raised eyebrows and definitely some surprises you will not expect from a band like us.
Is there anything else that you want to say or add about the album?
Well, this album goes to 11. Like literally we have 11 songs on the album and everything is in the entirety of this album. A Valediction is so broad. So you hear everything in between old school death metal, you could compare it to Morbid Angel, Bloodbath, to Whitesnake riffing, to jazz fusion, to epic openings to, well basically I keep it with Fredrik Nordström. He calls BOM, Best Of Metal. So just give it a listen, listen to the entire album front to end and well, hope you like it.