OBSCURA – Oslo – Parkteatret
As cold weather is rapidly installing in Oslo, the amount of cool indoors concerts gets sometimes overwhelming and leaves music lovers with some tough choices at times. Luckily tonight was not that tough, as a death metal evening organized by Radar Booking at Parkteatret was surely a great idea. Obscura’s 2016 Akroasis tour in Europe stopped by in Norway on a Thursday evening and, to my surprise, it gathered a good amount of people. I expected a rather empty venue as I stepped in 5 minutes after the first band started, especially considering the early hour for a concert in Oslo: 18:40. But plenty of people were already gathered to watch the Americans in Rivers of Nihil.
Their 2015 release, ‘Monarchy’, seems to have gathered a lot of good words around it and the live performance strongly agrees with that. It was a nice surprise to watch young guys play so tight and walk us through both of their full releases, debut ‘The Conscious Seed Of Light’ and the aforementioned ‘Monarchy. There’s a lot of wicked riffs to pay attention to, plenty of headbanging and crazy mixes of ideas. Which at times might even feel like a bit too much cramped in together, but they have plenty of time ahead of them to find out a more personal musical path and maybe get rid of what makes their sound feel a tad too crowded.
Up next we have Canadians by the name of Beyond Creation. Or, like I called them ‘the neckless guitars band’ – and got corrected so I should maybe call them headless guitars band. Either way, they made a very strong impression on me so I went directly to the merch stand after the show and bought the 2 available CDs. I’ve seen lots of technical bands live, but the Canadians’ skills in finger gymnastics were extraordinary. There’s no technique that the guys didn’t use in the way they handled their guitars and at times it just felt like a lesson in ‘what else you can do with a guitar if you practice 30 hours a day’. And the coolest part was that the lead riff belonged to a different guitarist each time (I include the bass player here) allowing each of them to show off and each of us to experience a broader range of ideas than with the usual one man army solos. I also loved the jazzy attitude of the less extreme-metal parts of their songs and now I’m so looking forward to give their albums a few spins.
A long(er) switch over and Revocation shows up on stage to the delightment of the audience which has already been treated nicely by the two opening acts, hence he stakes are high. This doesn’t seem to bother the Americans, who start performing a fast (and quite furious) set, all backed up by good mood. They mention the result of the US recent presidential election and dedicate Crumbling Imperium to the whole situation. People headbang with more and more fury during their show and there’s even a shy attempt at a moshpit. I paid a lot of attention to the drummer as I liked the dynamics in his style and he had quite some nice interesting fills. The music altogether has a higher level of aggressiveness, compared to the other bands but doesn’t get stuck in being technical til it is on the edge of being boring. It breaks up with lots of progressive twists which nicely adds up to an altogether explosive performance, that raised the bar even higher for the evening’s headliner.
The Germans in Obscura have previously played in Oslo about 4 years ago, as the mainman Steffen Kummerer remembers and back then I appreciated their skills, but nothing else of their show remained in my memory. This won’t be the case tonight. First of all, they grew quite a lot in the past years and the whole stage setup shows this: a huge backdrop with the band’s name, their own drumkit in the background (the other three bands shared another kit), 2 Akroasis vertical banners on each side of the stage, lots of smoke and lights placed on the floor in front of the microphones – all these do make a visual impression. But all these gets somehow irrelevant when you see, once again, how furiously they perform and how many (correct?) notes and shreds they manage with only 10 fingers. The two new band members have a level of shyness, but it is easily forgiven when you realize how much they have to focus to play such riffs or such drumbeats. The setlist goes back and forth between new songs from the ‘Akroasis’ album but also older hits like "Sermon Of The Seven Suns" and "Perpetual Infinity". More people launch into the moshpit and there’s even more heads banging their hair in all directions.
After only one hour we are told that this is the last song (Centric Flow if I am not mistaken) and it ends in an otherworldly guitar solo which kept reminding me that a friend just mentioned someone describing the Obscura guitar playing like a Bach on guitar. There was also a short drum solo and a lot of smoke, smiles and thanks, followed by a short break and a comeback during which I ran out to catch the tram home. I left quite satisfied after having had witnessed so many talented musicians performing for few hours and showing us how far one can go with a lot of determination and practice. I’m a bit curious how much practice one requires to reach those inhumane levels of guitar playing.