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Unless you're Cannibal Corpse, don't expect to get rich playing death metal, says Steffen Kummerer, bandleader of the German melodic death metal outfit Obscura. In fact, the 24-year-old media studies student insists that you shouldn't even expect to make a living at it. The best you can hope for is breaking even. "Every band has to deal with bills and invoices every month," he says.
Obscura has stayed on top of those bills and invoices, but the band's burgeoning success transcends mere bottom-line economics. For starters, Obscura's unabashed taste for combining melody with progressive death and fusion influences puts a fresh twist on a notoriously dogmatic genre. And while some songs showcase the band's prodigious chops, others stick to simpler motifs and patterns.
Kummerer's willingness to address topics like the relationship between the universe and consciousness and matching them with a stunning visual presentation doesn't hurt either. But aside from the music, Kummerer's keen business initiative has been instrumental in propelling the band forward.
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Aside from writing the bulk of the music, playing guitar, and providing vocals, Kummerer also manages the band, handles its graphic design and web programming, and even directed the video for the song "Anticosmic Overload" for college credit. That's the leadoff track from Obscura's sophomore full-length, Cosmogenesis, its first for Relapse Records.
And back in 2006, Kummerer cooked up a scheme to have the band embark on its first European tour as openers for the legendary Suffocation. Obscura not only booked the tour but also raised the money to pay for Suffocation's airfare, guarantees, and transportation costs. From a new band's perspective, the tour was a resounding success. "We didn't make any money from thetour," he recalls, "but it paid for itself."
While checking in with New Times recently at a going-away party thrown in his honor by his academic colleagues, he sounds undaunted, even cheerful, about his future. A surprise, given that said party was happening because Kummerer is being forced to transfer to another university for failure to complete his coursework. Essentially, he's getting kicked out of school.
"Last year, we did about 120 shows," he explains, again laughing. "I missed two exams I was not allowed to miss, so they had to say 'Goodbye, Mr. Kummerer.' I've tried to combine my studies with the band, but in the end, I failed!" Fortunately for the band, that's not exactly true.