27th October 2014 – Relapse Records
01. Human Obsolescence
02. Perfecting Slavery (featuring Christian Münzner)
04. Devouring the Essence of God (featuring Bobby Koelble)
05. One Percent Incomplete
06. Loathed in Life/Praised in Death
07. By My Demons
08. Laborem Morte Liberat
09. The Inevitable Return to Darkness
10. Night’s Blood (Dissection Cover)
Los Angeles technical death metal four-piece Abysmal Dawn have returned, offering their latest audio assault Obsolescence - and it packs a punch. This summer just gone, vocalist Charles Elliott fronted the Death tribute band as fill-in for the late Chuck Schuldiner on the first Death To All tour - a prestigious and coveted position. If that isn’t a powerful indicator as to the strengths of this band, then I don’t know what is. If I was a recruiter for a metaphorical “death metal” organisation – for the sake of theatrics, let’s call it “Slamsung” – and Mr. Charles Elliott happened to walk in, here is how that conversation would go.
Charles: “Fuckin’ howdy, dickhead. Fuck you, here’s my CV”
Charles proceeds to throw a single sheet of paper at me.
Ell: “This is just a receipt for a crate of bud lights, a pack of cool ranch doritos and a kit-kat…with “I WOZ IN DEFF 2 ALL” scribbled in crayon.”
Charles: “Yeah, fuckin’ what of it, buddy.”
Ell: “You’re hired”
Yeah, so that’s how that conversation would go. But this is another conversation, and this one goes like this;
“Obsolescence is such an orgy of technical mastery that it’s almost as if the God of Tech-death himself had broke in through the window, whipped his gigantic, sweaty cock out and ejaculated riffs all over the metaphorical corpse of the human condition”
- Me, right now
Abysmal Dawn aren’t your run-of-the-mill tech-death band; they’ve as much focus on technicality as your Necrophagists or your Obscuras, but their style is a lot less lead-orientated. That’s not to say there’s no bitchin’ solos in this album – far from it – however the band seem to aim towards a more riff-orientated tech-death approach. This is refreshing, as you don’t find yourself being slapped in the face with every wanky lead tangent that comes to the guitarist’s mind – like playing football, only the ball is a giant cock and your face is the net. This is quite unlike that. Instead, it’s rather like Takeshi’s Castle, in the way that the listener is the poor Japanese fellow who is about to be inevitably shafted by the obstacle course. And the obstacles are riffs, of course.
(Can we just take a minute to commend how excellent my metaphor-conjuring skills are? You all know exactly what I mean, right? Thank you, it means a lot to me.)
The album opens with “Human Obsolescence“, which is as good an opener as any. You barely have time to say “Good golly, that there is a truly magnificent riff” before you’re hit in the face with another one, tumbling from your musical medium of choice and directly onto your chest like an elephant giving you a Boston Steamer. “Perfecting Slavery” follows it; another savage, powerful song and a guest appearance from Christian Münzner, who also has a death metal portfolio that would make a Slamsung recruiter shit himself (starring Necrophagist, Spawn of Possession, Defeated Sanity and Obscura), and the song lives up to the guitarist’s prestige.
The band welcomes another guest performance in “Devouring the Essence of God” in the form of Bobby Koelble. Now a jazz guitarist, Koelble is best known for his guitarwork on Death’s 1995 masterpiece Symbolic - another death-metal powerhouse added to this already incredible line up.
Every song on the album has its merits, but the pinnacle is actually the last song: “The Inevitable Return to Darkness“. The riffs keep coming, without mercy, while the drums pummel through like some kind of machine. Elliott’s menacing vocals ride over the top of the onslaught with as much force as the musicians. It’s kind of like the instrumentals are some huge, angry-ass dragon with axes for teeth and the vocals are riding on the back of this dragon, only PLOT TWIST, it’s another fucking dragon.
“Ok, Ell, we get it! It’s at least a reasonably decent album, however, are there any shortfalls? Can you provide us with any criticisms of this fine output?” I hear you cry, in unison. Sheep.
Well, yeah, there are a few things I’d like to mention. While it is certainly a brilliant example of riff-orientated tech-death, it doesn’t really do anything to advance the band or the genre itself. In fact, one could almost say this is exactly what you would expect Abysmal Dawn to give us – another death metal album with lots of riffs. In a time where technical death metal bands are upping the ante (see Obscura, Beyond Creation etc), Abysmal Dawn are in danger of being left behind in that respect. Or maybe not. Maybe by not being more progressive, they’ll differentiate themselves from all the bands who are being more progressive. I don’t fucking know, I’m not Nostradamus.
Also what’s with that bass tone?
“What bass tone?” I hear you ask.
My point exactly.
Overall, it is a good record. I enjoyed it, most fans of the genre will also enjoy it, you’ll headbang (at least internally) and it will make your evening walk to the off-license to purchase your daily supply of tenants and marlboro reds that much more intense. It’s good enough to make it on to at least a few end of year top 10 lists, though probably only for hardcore fans of the genre. It doesn’t take any risks, nor does it expand on the formulae of any of the previous albums, but I certainly can’t fault it, especially after buying Amon Amarth‘s latest album and realising “Odins testacles, this is the exact same thing…again!”.