2015’s In Case You Missed It: Abyssal’s Antikatastaseis
Today I’m featuring a guest review from my good pal Fine Sexy Ladies. He’d like to make a case for one of the best albums of the year that you may have missed.
So… How long ago was this thing released? June 23rd? And it’s what month now? …Shit. Yeah, I fucked up. I apologize to you fine, beautiful people –mainly to the intelligent, patient, and damned handsome Dubya– for this woefully overdue review. I offer myself up for admittance to the Poser Clinic and for shoving/stuffing in the most cramped and odorous of lockers. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way and my anxiety has been appeased for the time being, allow me to (re)introduce myself. On here, I was formerly known as Keegan Lavern Still. Mostly because I couldn’t be bothered to make my own Disqus account, and the Facebook connectivity was convenient. Since December of last year, due to being moved to overnight shifts at my now-former job because of reasons, my presence among the Toilet has waned to the point of complete non-existence. In that same time, however, I’ve been relatively active on the Facebook group. And since the impetus for this review occurred, I have strived to become involved on the main site again! And have thus far failed spectacularly. So, for the sake of my editorial debut, as well as an unfortunate incident involving a particular brand of feminine hygiene products (sorry Joe), I have been inspired to reinvent myself on the site. Behold me in my new resplendent form: Fine Sexy Ladies! Do not let my aged countenance, sexual promiscuity, and tales of 19th Century Sicily fool you; beyond my four sets of wrinkled skin-suits lies the sweet, supple splendor of my sassiness! Now, again, behold me! DO IT!
…I should probably stop while I’m behind and get on with this. I’ve done a horrible job in setting the tone for this review, and it’s downhill from here. Well, here we go…
As fans of extreme music, we love the auditory trademarks of our genres of choice. Whether it’s the abrasive textures of metal, the harsh swells of power electronics, the general “fuck you” to structure and convention that is noise, etc., we live and breathe for the sounds that most people find aversive, if not utterly repulsive. Unfortunately there comes a time when one delves into the deepest reaches of the underground, scrounging for the next auditory ordeal, and they find nothing more to push the boundary of sound; nothing gives you a stronger emotional reaction than “eh, this is pretty cool.” At least that’s the state that I’ve found myself in for the past several months. And then, Profound Lore released a very special song in late April. A song so special, it made me feel the immediate need to move and thrash about inappropriately with accompanying vocalizations. I can’t confidently recall the last time that listening to a new song for the first time hit me in such a visceral way; that instantaneous connection to the music being made, and the instinct to critically analyze and dissect being brutally incapacitated. Instead of acting on the primal reaction that had occurred in me, as I was working my library job when Profound Lore first premiered the song, I settled for immediately sharing it with you silly bitches. May I present to you, “I Am the Alpha and the Omega”, by Abyssal.
For those of you previously uninitiated, Abyssal is a UK death/black/doom metal project that incorporates both atmosphere and dissonance into their music, and Antikatastaseis is their new monstrosity of an album. The span of time between the release of Antikatastaseis and their last album, Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius, was an oddly long one considering Novit‘s release in January of 2013 followed the release of Abyssal’s debut, Denouement, by almost an exact year in January of 2012. Even though the wait between Novit and Antikatastaseis was actually pretty damn short relative to other bands in extreme metal (I’m talking to you, Erik Wunder), it was still a painful wait for those of us previously familiar with Abyssal’s particular brand of dark, murky death metal.
The aforementioned opening track of the album, “I Am the Alpha and the Omega” is surprisingly immediate when compared to the overtures of previous albums, in that there is no atmospheric buildup whatsoever, and you’re cast into the writhing murk and left to weather the intensity of the instrumentation. The tempo slows about two-thirds of the way through, but it eventually climaxes with a crashing wave of guitars with a melodic motif that lasts until the track’s end. Beyond it being the opening track –and a damned good one– it’s also a taste of how Abyssal integrates melody in the album as a whole; swarming tremolo leads pervading the writhing maelstroms of guitars and drums, both as seething undercurrents and crashing high tides, and more subdued than the melodies present in Denouement. Other melodic highlights includes the almost triumphantly discordant guitars near the end of “The Cornucopian” and the conversely somber leads in the halfway point of “Telomeric Erosion.”
As smoothly incorporated and sometimes subdued as the melodies are throughout the album as a whole, there is a clear exception to the rule in the music box-esque twinkling that starts in the latter half of “Veil of Transendence” when the song seemingly ends. It isn’t off-putting or not well-placed (depending on who you are) but it cuts through the swarm of guitars and drums almost incessantly as they return to prominence in the song, plinking away in the background. It’s jarring, and you can’t not hear it, as it continues into the song’s end.
Although not as utterly oppressive as they were in Novit, the atmospheric buildups are still very much a part of Abyssal’s murky motif, as incorporated in the openings of tracks “The Cornucopian” and “A Causal Landcsape”, with the ambiance of the latter being much more somber than the crescendo of percussion of the former. Of particular note, the guitar-driven opening of “Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas” seems to drag on slightly, but the eventual introduction of the guitars that bring the melancholic, bittersweet closure of the album is worth it. Beyond that, the slow-burning guitar swarms in “Chrysalis” are the biggest throwback to Abyssal’s outright evil-sounding menace in Novit.
Of particular note for Antikatastaseis as a whole is the subtle change in production. While the murkiness of the previous albums is still very much there, it’s much less obscuring than it was before. It’s less oppressive but much clearer, which suits the emphasis on melody in the album exceptionally well. The vocals are largely, deep, guttural, and nigh-indecipherable as they were before –and as they often are in bands of Abyssal’s ilk– but there are the odd moments of clarity that lend impact to key moments in the music; immediately before the warm pad-esque outro of “I Am the Alpha and the Omega”, and the beginning of the “Dreams of the stars” verse in the halfway point of “Telomeric Erosion.”
In closing, Antikatastaseis succeeds both of its predecessor albums in every way but is entirely its own entity beneath the pitch black waters of Abyssal. It cements their place as the pinnacle of dark, atmospheric death metal and can sit confidently among contemporaries such as Mitochondrion, Antediluvian, Ævangelist, and the emerging force that is Malthusian. May its ebon tides swallow you and never allow you to surface.