We took a moment to speak with Germany’s Steffen Kummerer of Obscura to discuss about Diluvium, touring and many more to come.
MPM: Please introduce yourself and what you do.
SK: Please read the biography.
MPM: You’ve been with Obscura since 2002 where the band started it all. What made you want to play a technical and progressive style of Death Metal?
SK: When we founded the band in 2002, barely anyone was into this specific kind of music. Death, Cynic, Atheist, Pestilence and other have been broken up for years at that time. Within the years, our musical taste and ability to perform such complex music went from a beginner level to a more mature and after a few years into a professional state releasing records internationally and touring for each album around the globe. I founded the band in October 2002 while I bought my first electric guitar just a few months before – in March 2002. From this jumpstart, the music evolved along my personal progression as musician. Each Obscura record blends the state we and I have been at that time accurate. While our demo shows influences from a wide range of extreme music, our debut album “Retribution” shows the more complex approach with a certain signature riffing that represents Obscura until today. To sum it up, complex and progressive songwriting paired with hook lines and demanding musicianship drives me up to this day to write more music.
MPM: The last album we’ve heard from Obscura was 2018’s Diluvium which was a fantastic release start to finish. Could you go over how the songwriting, lyrics and album name all came along prior to 2016’s Akróasis?
SK: The share of songwriting and lyrics has not changed since our debut album. I write 4-5 songs for each album and contribute all lyrics and vocal lines including the visual concept and album names. Depending on the lineup of each record, my bandmates add complete songs, fragments or re-arrangements of compositions to form an accomplished album with contributions of every member. Writing “Diluvium” we oriented along our four album concept and finished the cycle with a straight, but sharp produced record according to the theme of the ultimate end, the close of a 10 year long chapter.
MPM: You’re also the lead vocalist for Thulcandra which plays a very melodic, and straightforward hybrid of both black and death metal that brings a Dissection influence sound. How did that came all along compared to your contributions for Obscura?
SK: Thulcandra was formed in 2003 by back then Obscura members as an option to separate the more blackened and melodic ideas from the Obscura, which turned into a way more technical direction at that time. If you listen to songs like “Anticosmic Overload”, “Septuagint”, “Sermon of the Seven Suns” or “Convergence” the spirit of melodic black and death metal swings through a grand part of Obscura’s history. My position in the band is not the lead vocalist, I write the music, lyrics and produced the last record. When I grew up, bands such as the mentioned dissection, Emperor, Eucharist, Unanimated and Sacramentum had the same impact as the US prog death scene. There is no either / or, just a manifold row of bands that influenced me in the early years.
MPM: Obscura’s lyrics are based on different themes including Space, Life, Philosophy and Technology. Is that something you’ve always admired when it comes to writing the songs?
SK: All those topics are more interesting than “rock out with your balls out” clichés or themes with usual mass murder topology.
MPM: You’ve toured with many great artists including Fallujah, Rivers Of Nihil, Allegaeon and Gorod. Could you tell us how the touring experience was for you to be a part of the technical death metal scene?
SK: When we started with our first tours and festival appearances, we played the same clubs as Necrophagist or Profanity at the time. During our first international tour, we supported Suffocation in Europe 2006 when the hype of technical or progressive music was in the early stages. In the last decade, we toured with a row of great bands such as Cannibal Corpse, Children of Bodom, Atheist, Death DTA, The Black Dahlia Murder and many more. When Obscura gained more attention and turned into a proper headlining act, we added bands to our tours that have been promising in the past as local openers like Fallujah or Beyond Creation. Up to this date, we invite bands we want to get on the road and support them with the chance to present themselves in front of a full venue and proper circumstances. Lately, we invited First Fragment, Rivers of Nihil and Beyond Creation for their first European tours, Jinjer to Japan and took out Exist on the “Diluvium Amerika” tour simply to support hard working underground bands and the music itself.
MPM: Whom are some of your biggest musical Influences or musicians you’ve looked up to when started playing music?
SK: Within the first years, Chuck Schuldiner, Paul Masvidal and Yngwie Malmsteen had a huge impact on my playing as a guitarist. Lately artists like Tony MacAlpine, Brian May and Joe Satriani had a lion’s share on my playing.
MPM: What’s your intake on the technical death metal scene as a whole and what would be your perspectives to see it grow for many years to come?
SK: Every now and then, I see a real band shaping out of being a project into a real act, producing proper releases and working hard to get their name in the game. With supportive fans, record labels as The Artisan Era and comradeship along bands, fans and promoters I see a bright future for the genre in the upcoming years. Unfortunately, I see many talented artists that go down the one-man army path, recruiting any player for their project, programmed drums, and eclectic sounds, which end up in a generic product quite often. Sometimes it feels like there is one person playing a computer game and buys in the names of people that perform or performed in known bands just to get credibility instead of originality. If bands like Fractal Universe, Vektor and Exist – just to name a few – keep on writing, touring and producing, there might be the next wave of progressive / technical death metal just around the corner.
MPM: Are there any upcoming releases for 2019 that you’re eagerly waiting?
SK: I just got the new Nocturnus AD record, which looks promising, and a first single that sounded authentic.
MPM: If you weren’t in a death metal band what other jobs do you see yourself in your spare time when not being in studio to record or on tour?
SK: Within my day job I draft and design high end audio, video and broadcast studios in Germany. Aside from that, I still work on a PhD thesis in the fields of technical acoustics.
MPM: Is there any advice for upcoming bands who are starting to be in a band? If so, what would you give them for beginning tips if they want to pursue dreams and opportunities?
SK: Work hard, have a plan and aims, but never lose the fun of performing music with friends.
MPM: Any last words to your fans for closing the interview?
SK: Thank you for the interview and support of Obscura, visit our shows, being loyal over the years and see you on the road soon!