I admit this is not what I thought it would be.
From hearing the description and reading the band’s press release, I truly expected Abscess’ new effort “Dawn of Inhumanity” to be a mess. I thought it would be visceral and unrefined; a slogging pile of steaming metaphor and brutal imagery.
I was right. It is all of those things and then some. Still there’s more than just punk-infused hyper-violence at work here. Abscess shows a modicum of versatility not often seen in this brand of high velocity, ugly death metal. When you look into the band’s heritage, it’s not terribly difficult to understand where this kind of blending talent comes from. Chris Reifert and Danny Coralles were both part of Autopsy, and Reifert was additionally a member of Death.
More than their European counterparts who rely predominantly on excessive speed and sheer concussive force, Abscess is capable of setting a mood. “Dawn of Inhumanity” shows a talent for bridging the gap between atmospheric death metal and ear-splitting death metal. While Abscess clearly projects an image of a hardcore death metal band as viewed through the lens of wanton destruction, there are a lot of Black Sabbath roots that show through. “The Rotting Land” is an old-style gloomy atmospheric dirge, complete with haunting guitars and plodding bass. “Dead Haze” is a song that uses nightmarish imagery and a classic doom metal pacing to create a haunting effect.
If you’re a fan of over the top metal that’s aggressive, unprocessed and just plain nasty, you’ve come to the right place. The band focuses a lot of their thematic and lyrical energy around mental imagery and dysfunction, crafting a world of insane possibilities just dripping with entrails. “Never Sane Again” is not only a powerful, relentless exhibition, but the singing is done in much a manner as to channel an anguished feeling of unrest. This continues throughout the album, from the title track to tracks like “Torn From Tomorrow” or “Black Winds of Oblivion.” Abscess, at their best, wants you to be uncomfortable. The band wants you to buy in and take a trip with them through a twisted dreamscape of dark and grisly visions.
Aside from the relentless percussive pounding, there is a fair amount of orchestrated ability on the part of the band. While Abscess never thrills the listener with any particular virtuosity, they are capable of more than just punishing their instruments. In keeping with the exposure of their Black Sabbath roots, the band does know how to craft an infectious beat, as they can get into a head-banging rhythm without too much effort. Honestly, I might have wanted them to explore that concept a little further, as there is untapped potential there.
Unfortunately, the quality of the production is low, and that’s really a shame. While not necessarily ground-breaking, I think a high end production would have been a better showcase for the band’s capable layering. As it is, whether through intention or accident, a lot of the album stands to get lost in the mud to the casual listener.
As a last thought, I’m not really sure where Abscess goes from here. It’s a problem endemic to the entire underground death metal genre. My fear is that despite Abscess’ pedigree and talent, they may have painted themselves into a corner. Anything they do from here threatens to simply be more of the same.
This is an acquired taste, and Abscess’ “Dawn of Inhumanity” is not for everyone. However, if you’re on the lookout for something that is angry and fearsome, but still recognizable as music, take a flyer on Abscess. Rent before you buy.