Omegavortex – Black Abomination Spawn
For every action, there is an equivalent reaction. It’s an old saying that seems to echo throughout the history of metal as a whole. Heavy metal began as a response to the flowery idealism of hippies (though not necessarily opposed to them entirely ideologically), NWOBHM wanted to break from the orthodoxy they saw their idols as having become, thrash felt that there were fresher plains to desecrate if they cast off the last of hard rock respectability, and so on. This isn’t a completely 100% accurate way to analyze genre history but if you view these in tandem with how various musical movements develop and where they seem to fall short, you can view these less as necessarily movements in opposition and moreso as more of “covering for the flanks”; compensating for where some musical styles may lack by creating something that excels in those specific areas.
Death metal of the old variety is the topic for today’s review and the sound it is a response to? The influx of various grind/hardcore/doom oriented styles, typically derived from various Finnish, Swedish, American, British, and European bands in general such as Entombed, Crematory, Demigod, Autopsy, Asphyx, Bolt Thrower, Carcass, Dismember, and so on. While their influence has been a major part of the death metal revival since the late 2000s, much of it has congealed as of late into a kind of nebulous and to many, indistinct mix of mostly low-register rhythmic churn and mosh-friendly reverb-clouded songwriting usually referred to as caveman death metal (though it should be noted that not everything that reaches into that pool of influences results in these sounds).
This mirrors the situation that the thrash metal genre went through in the late ’80s in the wake of its massive popularity spike brought along by the successes of the major name German and American bands. The genre exploded in popularity in 1986 but with renewed commercial interest and countless eager musicians, Sturgeon’s Law took effect harder than ever and we were left with an impossibly high number of practically interchangeable regurgitations of tropes. Death metal could be said to have been the original response to this, and was responded to with black metal. Now that this genre is potentially even more crowded than it was in 1992, what style will rise up as the contrasting response to our Fetids, Cerebral Rots, Sanguisugaboggs, and Gatecreepers?
As strange as it sounds, a number of bands have decided the answers can be found not in the future but rather the past. This year alone we’ve seen a large number of bands hearkening back to a kind of thrashy death metal that while arguably American in its conception, is not exactly in line with the dominant ’90s American sound of bands such as Malevolent Creation, Cannibal Corpse, Monstrosity, or Deicide. Bands such as Thirsty Demon, Avlivad, Infesticide, Coffin Curse, Malicious, Had (Denmark), Evil Priest, and Ascended Dead have all put out albums or EPs showing an alternate idea of what “Old School Death Metal” (OSDM) can be, trading away an emphasis on murky atmospherics and ritualistic rumbling for a wild-eyed feral bloodthirst that places vicious interlinked riffing tinged with the reckless occult terror of first wave black metal and mutated from the most violent strains of thrash metal first and foremost.
From this swarm of devouring intransigence comes Germany’s Omegavortex, exemplifying the possibilities of this emergent school of saturation bombardment violence the furthest out of this year’s already impressive arsenal of barbarity. Their origins go all the way back to 2007 when they formed under the name of Ambevilence, just two years before the rebirth of ’90s style death metal began. They continued on steadily with little exposure, putting out a pair of demos and EPs along with changing their name. 2018’s promo is how most of us were exposed to them, debuting with 4 lengthy songs of incessantly ravenous death metal at once familiar to those indoctrinated by the perverse sorceries of abominations such as Necrovore, demo-era Morbid Angel, Incubus (God Died on his Knees), Necrodeath, Exmortis, and early Shub Niggurath (Mexico) but with the youthful naivete and chaotic hunger morphed into an insidious, deliberate form as supernatural as it was berserk.
Two years later with even tighter musicianship (resulting in an even higher level of sonic cruelty) and this German 4-piece returns to sound the war cry for a new wave of primal carnage. Bristling with intensity, absolutely refusing any gestures towards accessibility, and sonically contemptuous towards commonplace genre practices, Black Abomination Spawn provides the antidote and the cut to the trudging complacency that is slowly creeping through the once fertile graveyards of the genre.
Omegavortex is aggressive enough about going fast that on occasion they are nearly reminiscent of the late ’90s to mid 2000s Vital Remains and Hate Eternal-esque bands but it would be a mistake to place them even in adjacent rooms to one another. In their employ are riffs from when death metal had barely finished divorcing itself from the nastiest of thrash bands but still bore traces of the black metal that too was also in the process of gestating at a rapid pace. The cannibalized nature of their riffs has been filtered into structures that rely less so on pure energy and impact but a sense of violent dialogue playing their surging motions and even fragments of dissonant upper register eeriness shimmering against one another.
The black metal aspect of their sound has been used to create a stronger sense of texture, avoiding the common trap of morphing guitar work into an ambient cloudiness, and instead manifesting primarily as their practice of select passages emphasizing longer semi-atonal phrasings, juxtaposed with lots of short rippy riffs taking the residual crunch of thrash and filtering it through the disjointed, tumbling cyclone-patterns of early American death metal.
Much of this can easily pass in a blur at first given the war metal or even brutal death level of feeding frenzied activity but they have a sharp advantage over both in a far more defined approach to riffing, emphasizing clearer shapes in their guitar playing granting them a nightmarishly lucid clarity interspersed with shriekier piercing notes that cut through meatier bottom end hammering with ease. Drumming matches this with an ever-furious artillery barrage of blast beats and quick fills like a whole building bulldozed in fast-forward, making slight adjustments in tempo and cymbal smashing to modulate the effect of a riff, while bass guitar thumps along ominously in a hypnotic trance of pulsing, throbbing low-register thudding. Eschewing guttural burps, vocals are a crackly dry open-throated howl, dwelling in the mid-upper ranges and torturous like blizzard winds overlaid on crackling static radio transmissions.
This aesthetic mixes the nightmare lucidity of the earliest strains of “pure” death metal with an eye for implicit atmosphere conveyed not so much through conceited technique as much as a byproduct of what their no-mercy attack creates, creating a sound that at once is explosive and abrupt in a way few other OSDM bands are but capable of swamping you in atmospheres less fetid and reeking and more hallucinatory and disorienting. The way they write their songs reflects this whirlwind of alien emotions as well, focusing less so on mood and more on the kinetic exchange of energy between clashing columns of combative riffing. They remain just coherent enough in spite of its absurdly aggressive delivery to give a sense of a theme you can latch onto before equally incendiary counterparts erupt outwards to seize your attention away. Amidst the maelstrom they work in thinner and almost psychedelically dissonant notation, gradually warping the increasingly alien wrath-scourged sonic landscape with dashes of the surreal and ghostly.
Slower, doomier section are not as frequent as they are in Nordic-styled death metal but when they do happen they play a larger role. The aggression may let up but the creeping sense of overwhelming horror, communicated by the prior-discussed dissonant guitar, is allowed to emerge like some creeping horde of freshly borne locusts hungry for their first meals. This songwriting style is a descendant of the paired riff method of Morbid Angel: a set of conflicting riffs leads to a longer series of sharply differing riffs to explain and resolve their precept.
Omegavortex however focus not quite as much on purely architectural arrangement and instead use the halfway morph-point to introduce a deepening sense of thick, eldritch atmosphere implied by the prior riffing but now given a chance to expand to consume and control the space left for it in the wake of the enthralling devastation preceding it. These songs aren’t as obviously sectioned either, utilizing the near-blurring effect of the speeding guitar work to make the riffs nearly seem like one almost fused together twitching whole but splintering them apart, veins spraying and bones shattering, to completely erase any sense of comforting patterns setting in.
We should be wary of putting the entirety of our trust in this emerging movement of thrash-borne death metal even if bands like Omegavortex make it clear it presents a powerful alternative to the current OSDM glut. After all, any movement no matter how organic and homegrown can be co-opted (or ignored) by the dominant labels and tastemakers then deprived of the things that made it stand out in the first place. Perhaps we will see a glut of these sorts of bands too and we shall watch the movement become the very thing it originally arose to oppose.
Right now Black Abomination Spawn spearheads a movement to bring back the hellish intransigence and thrashing heart that carried this venerable style in its earliest years as well as to make it clear that there are far more facets to the death metal of ages past than what the current condensing and codification of it as a whole might suggest. It’s not what I would call experimental but at the same time, it creates a strange mood of horrors dwelling less so in reeking bogs and tombs and moreso in the dark spaces between the stars, shifting and blurring in existences foreign to our understanding.
Even more admirable is how it invokes this aura of pure dread while retaining a level of rabies-infected cyclonic violence; its “atmosphere” is a byproduct of rather than the single-minded focus of its particular brand of blackened death metal. Time will tell if they and the rest of their 2020 compatriots can keep up this impressive level of quality amidst the crowded catacomb halls of the genre but if Omegavortex’s debut has made anything clear, everyone else regardless of their particular stylistic affiliations is going to have a lot of catching up to do.
4.5 out of 5 reality-dissolving lovecraftian space-vomits.
Black Abomination Spawn releases November 13th on Invictus Productions. You can preorder it here. You can also purchase and stream the entirety of Omegavortex’s prior material on their official bandcamp.