by T. Ray Verteramo
In between the stones and carnage, within the tempest of the song, a slithering sound rises above the crunch of the guitars, sweeping the journey into the hypnotic, maelstrom voice of the bass…This is the potential effect, if one took care.
But, though this phenomenon is something mostly unheard of today in Metal, in general, it is an experience Linus Klausenitzer provides.
Though it would be easy to blame bad production, “I think that is the bassist’s fault,” the Poseidon of the instrument bluntly states. “Bass has been getting super uninteresting in the last couple of years.”
“If you listen to the bass players in the ‘80’s or the ‘70’s,” he explains, “The bass just had such a big role and it adds such a big color and the band would sound totally different.
And now the bass player is playing the same notes as the guitar, just filling the same frequencies, because that’s what it does in most Metal bands today, and that’s super sad.”
As one of the senior members of Tech-Death giants, Obscura, Klausenitzer understands his role in the microcosm — as an individual and as an artist — as well as the macro, as a part of a unique and powerful unit touring the world, introducing new concepts to different demographics, from nerds to newbies, while saturating his delicately balanced life in his passion.
Between touring with Obscura, writing with Obscura, then writing with Alkaloid, getting ready to record with both, and the little projects here, projects there, and his web-development business, the one thread that sews it all together is the music, itself.
Explaining the technical side of passion to a layman is difficult, like understanding a different language. “It just happens very naturally, that’s why it’s so hard to explain.
It’s just following what we love. Like almost everybody in this scene has been a musician since childhood.”
But, the dish that Obscura serves at the Metal table doesn’t come with a ‘happy meal’ toy surprise. The energetic demands are exponential. “You have to put so much more in this kind of band than in another band because you need three times more songwriting, you need three times more to play the songs live, you need a longer to record, you need longer to produce. It’s just the effort is just way bigger than in any other band and that’s also something I experienced.”
“If you only like a little Metal, you will not like Obscura or Alkaloid.
It’s not something you start with, to start listening to Metal, because if you’re used to that sound and if you’re used to the cliché’s then Obscura is showing you something else. And it’s like, bringing together a lot of different styles, so it’s not that we play the three sound elements and that’s it, like other bands do. And we love this complexity.”
As beautiful as that complexity sounds in the ears, the intensity in which to create and maintain it can seep into ugly relations. It’s no secret that Obscura has a high turnover rate for a nearly 15-year old band – and some of those changes were not amicable or private. Klausenitzer theorizes that the intensity plays a role. And though he does not speak of it very often, he was always, nonetheless, affected; especially when two of his closest friends and Alkaloid bandmates, Christian Muenzner and Hannes Grossmann, were involved.
“Nobody in Obscura can have a normal job or something. So, you have to build a life around the band. So, your emotions are way more. You get more idealistic about it.
Your emotions are so strongly connected to the band that if something doesn’t work out, it’s almost like a divorce.”
“I’m friends with everyone, actually,” he says with a smile. “Chris and Hannes are still two of my best friends, which makes me so happy. I was super sad when they split from Obscura. Super, super sad. So, I was even more happy to join the band that they started to go on with after Obscura. I’m very, very happy about that.”
Building a life around one band is one thing, but two? He manages. “Progress is still going,” he says.
“The situations in the band changing all the time. Now we toured a lot of the album Akroasis and next we have to concentrate a lot more on songwriting again, so we have to play a little less live again. Maybe we’re still going to do some tours, but we be going to the studio at the end of the year. That’s the plan, anyway.”
But, their 2016 release, Akroasis, which has been called their ‘strongest’ and ‘most dynamic release to date,’ is going to be a tough act to follow. What sets this monster apart from anything else they’ve done so far was mostly, according to Klausenitzer, the approach. “It took us a long time to find a basis for songwriting for the new Obscura sound, he explained. “In our songwriting, the musicianship of everyone is super important. We want to feature everybody, the strength of every musician to make the song, to make the songs sound different than other bands.
We have three new band members now for the album since the last album. We thought, ‘Ok, what can we do to find the new sound that is still Obscura?’ and I think that worked out pretty well, that concept.
I can still hear the old roots with the new influence of the new musicians.”
And the world agreed. Sharing titanic bills with Death, Aeon, Children of Bodom, Septicflesh, Nile, Cannibal Corpse and others on three continents, as well as making an effective presence online, Obscura have proven themselves a force to be reckoned with. Combined with the grand entrance of Alkaloid’s 2015 debut, The Malkuth Grimoire, Klausenitzer has proven his chops as a chef in whole kitchen, not just those two pots, as his unique and mesmerizing sound signature as a main ingredient.
Of course, not without his tools. “Sometimes I post a picture [on social media] with a bass in my hand I get more likes than if I post a song.”
One of his unusual weapons of choice is an elegant, 6-string fretless beast. Unfortunately, Ibanez didn’t have one, so they had to make one. “They made a fretless version for me. And at least once a month, people write to me that they did the same. So, I always tell Ibanez to do a 6-string fretless bass.” He even does a 7-string, but not for the reasons one would think.
“I can only speak for myself and I like the 7-string bass because it’s giving me more options. And having more options to make different music is good.”
Though one could question how many strings would it take before a bass becomes a harp, there is a method to the madness. “The consequence of guitars getting lower and lower gives me more space for the high notes. So, I have an additional high string instead of an additional low string.”
And as for the “H” note players, “To be honest,” he said, “I don’t like the concept of guitarists going lower and lower because that’s losing pressure.”
Another disappointment, aside from buried basslines, self-limiting song structures (“Why does every band have to copy the sounds of the three bands they like most? It’s very sad.”) and ground-slinging notes, is the lack of support for Metal, in comparison to other genres, especially in his German homeland.
“My father is a classical musician and he always had lived by orchestras. They always had financial support from the government and financial sponsors. He tried to raise money from that. I always wonder, why aren’t we doing that? Why is it only for classical music?
Metal is so physiological, it’s so deep…there’s a lot of stuff to explore in.
People say, ‘But, Metal gets deep very rarely,” and I say, “Yeah, so let’s support it so that changes’.”