If you had proposed this matchup a year or two ago, I would not have believed that this outcome was possible. The last time we heard from Obscura, it was a brief first-round skirmish back in 2013. Four years later, they've returned with Akróasis, and with it a more energized and imaginative sonic vocabulary. Superficially, they haven't changed at all, wielding a Cynic-like tech death with all the trimmings: ridiculous guitar wankery, inhuman drumming, prominent fretless bass... even vocals alternating between vocoder and Cookie Monster. But what is new is the songwriting. It's like the band wanted to go "back to basics" (remember when Metallica said that repeatedly while doing press for The Black Album?), only Obscura's basic building blocks are blast beats, counterpoint, and arpeggios.
You know who else knows about arpeggios? Protest The Hero, natch... and Pacific Myth has plenty of the band's trademark frantic virtuosity. There's also an attempt here to widen their songwriting ambitions here, without straying too far from their bread and butter: dextrous instrumental antics with rhythms as smooth as a wooden rollercoaster. But while this approach has served PTH well in the past, this iteration feels a little cramped and perfunctory. That's not simply a result of comparison to Obscura's more expansive approach -- I'd felt the same "Is that it?" feeling with my first listen of Pacific Myth -- but Akróasis certainly doesn't make it easier by being so masterful in its own right.
And so, Protest The Hero are felled by Obscura, who move on to the Round Of 16 on February 1st. They'll be up against either Agoraphobic Nosebleed or Revocation; tune in tomorrow, to find out which!