Abysmal Dawn
Obsolescence

In 2012, I covered the Slaughter on the Water III festival aboard the USS Hornet in San Francisco Bay. Yes, a death metal festival on an aircraft carrier. Actually, make that inside the hangar of an aircraft carrier, and you’d better believe that shit was loud. I got tinnitus in my balls. The day was a blur of brutal sets by stalwarts like Impaled, Autopsy, and Exodus, but the one set that stood out all day – hell, make that the one track that stood out all day – was LA-based tech death act Abysmal Dawn blasting out “In Service of Time” – a syncopated sledgehammer of a song that reverberated off the steel walls and sent the entire pit into an instant slo-mo maelstrom of Neolithic knuckle-dragging. I was already a big fan of the band’s 2011 release Leveling the Plane of Existence, and knew all of the songs they played from it, but that was the one I was waiting for. Simple, memorable, massively groovy and satisfying.

On their fourth album, Abysmal Dawn have zeroed in on that formula: just give the people what they want. And they have, with a speedy, crunchy, and pure death metal monster that isn’t really looking to innovate, crossbreed, or push the genre forward – it just wants to cave your damn head in.

Leveling the Plane of Existence was fairly lean and sculpted as far as tech-death goes – nothing noodly or fussy, also not as expansive as Gorod or Obscura or The Faceless – just good technical churn in the service of solidly crafted songs. This is even more straightforward. Track by track, the album is consistent and well-crafted, though the compositions are rarely showy or progressive. Most tracks blur or lurch by – “Human Obsolescence” rumbles right into “Perfecting Slavery,” which slows down into the simplistic, neck-snapping first single “Inanimate.” Breakneck followed by bludgeoning, lurch and groove followed by massive beatdowns. If I had to pick a successor to “In Service of Time,” it’d be “One Percent Incomplete,” which lopes along like a serial killer before catching its prey and delivering a crushing, deep-cleaver groove. It’s going to kill live.

There’s sinewy melody throughout all of these tracks, but overall it takes a backseat to the ultra-syncopated rhythm work. Drummer Scott Fuller and new bassist Eliseo Garcia absolutely punish their instruments like they’re strapped to a high-speed Wheel of Pain. That’s not to say the guitars don’t have their jaw-dropping moments, though. That volcanic, undulating death metal foundation lets the real firestorm take center stage at the right moments. Many of the bluesy, serpentine solos (check out “By My Demons”) recall classic Testament or Death, while others are more dizzying and chaotic (“Loathed in Life – Praised in Death”) or blood-spatteringly spastic (brutal album closer “The Inevitable Return to Darkness”). Speaking of Death, Bobby Koelble (who played on Symbolic, Death’s finest and best-written hour, in my opinion) guests with some tricky technical chops on “Devouring the Essence of God,” while Christian Muenzner (ex-Necrophagist, ex-Obscura, you know who he is) blazes some borderline neoclassical flamboyance into the methodical “Perfecting Slavery.”

As for vocals, Charles Elliott, who kicked off the Death to All tour in 2012 as The Voice of Chuck Schuldiner, sounds even more monstrous than he did on Leveling, not so much growling the (indecipherable) lyrics as much as ripping giant bloody hunks out of them and swallowing them whole. (Seriously, hire this guy for the next Bloodbath album.) There are also a few ominous cultish chants on “Loathed in Life – Praised in Death” and the lumbering skullcrusher “Laborem Morte Liberat Te,” but they’re the few wisps of atmosphere on an album which mostly avoids it.

As a final bonus, there’s a faithful cover of the classic “Night’s Blood” by Dissection. Elliott chokes his guttural vocals up into an admirable imitation of Jon Nodtveidt’s rasp, and the guitars climb a little closer to a frosty tremolo than on the rest of Obsolescence, but they’re still heftier than the sound on Storm of the Light’s Bane. Of course, this is also the most melodic track on the album – and somehow the least frenetic too.

Abysmal Dawn may have started out as technical death, but like Decapitated, who has also made a conspicuous shift towards more groove and brutality, I don’t think they fit that tag anymore. Complexity has been largely replaced by convention, but it’s still an expertly played, excellently produced example of modern, polished death metal. It does what it’s supposed to do, and wows at the right moments. And to be honest, I think it’s far more successful than this year’s lauded genre vanguards like Fallujah and Inanimate Existence, both of which, in my opinion, overindulged on ethereal atmosphere at the expense of satisfying songcraft. In an already oversaturated death metal landscape, perhaps a crowdpleasing, straightforward, and high-quality release is just the right way to avoid obsolescence.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jordan Itkowitz
November 5th, 2014

Comments

  1. Commented by: PoopNuggs

    I caught these guys for the second time recently on the Minds of Evil tour and they just kill it live. I’ve never heard any of their albums but they are a force in the flesh, almost stole the show when I saw them with Corpse the first time and were bested only by Inquisition the second show. Gotta get around the hearing an actual album though especially with a good write up like this.


  2. Commented by: Guilliame

    Good review, great band.


  3. Commented by: Jason

    Yeah, these guys are tight. Liked them from the first release, and this stuff sounds great from what I’ve heard.

    Kick ass write-up.


  4. Commented by: Luke_22

    Still absorbing this one but your review hits the nail on the head. They have settled into a nice established groove and the songwriting is straightforward but high quality. Good stuff.


  5. Commented by: jsgibson

    Great band. I refer to them as the Polish band from LA ever since a girl I was with when I saw them open up for Cannibal Corpse kept asking me, “are you sure they’re not from Poland?”


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