Review: Faceless Burial – Multiversal Abattoir

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One of the pervasive issues I find in a lot of discourse surrounding the future of metal, “originality”, or its current progressions is the very nature of what constitutes such itself. A lot of it essentially boils down to an edgier form of pop novelty where anything even marginally “new” (read: something you’re familiar with from another genre now slapped onto a more supposedly mundane one) is treated as some sort of groundbreaking experiment in redefining boundaries and norms. Nevermind that everything once fresh and exciting will quickly become mundane, ordinary, and frequently tiresome. A band as ugly and throwback sounding Faceless Burial definitely don’t sound like they would belong in this kind of discussion yet listening to their latest EP and I find a far fresher take on death metal than almost everything from the more dissonant or technically oriented crowds. Granted it’s definitely not being advertised as such and to most ears it’s definitely not going to sound that way either but to more experienced ears, what we have on this short five song EP is equal parts ravenous and surreal, capturing both the savage wilderness that was the genre’s legendary early 90’s period and the cryptic mysteries hidden behind the numerous crevices and caverns therein.

With their name referencing the cult classic demo and EP by Californian claustrophobes Immortal Fate, these Australians set forth on a strange and misshapen pathway that encapsulates the deranged intensity of the grindcore and punk that had a heavy role in death metal’s early days along with the wealth of knowledge being uncovered on both the classic Scandinavian and American domains. Much of the riffing sounds ambiguous in its contorted phrasings and the songs fracture into bizarre subdivisions of horribly bent tonalities and rapidly collapsing phrases. They never let anything repeat for too many measures, refusing any kind of accessibility in the place of their own putrid idiosyncrasies. While it’s not necessarily the most complex death metal out there, it does constantly stay on its feet, cycling through a wide variety of sections in a way that can make it feel faster and more aggressive than it actually is. There’s a surprisingly level of coordination involved in this sound that while highly chaotic, is so in a way that has little to do with the monotonous one track mind hyperblasting chugthuggery or scattershot dissotech skronkgrind of today. Comparisons can be drawn to the schizophrenic nightmares found in the demos of Sweden’s Crematory, Goreaphobia, Texas’ Severance, and Thou Shalt Suffer. These are best understood as general reference points and the mindset of those tumultuous days is not present here. Whereas old school death metal was savage and untamed expressions of funereal power, here an insidious undertone of deliberation and careful planning permeates the amorphously shifting patterns of deformed power chords and semi-atonal leads. Rather than an example order from chaos, this is a veil of sickening mayhem cloaking a conscious form, every inch of its mind dictating the innumerable snapping, grasping limbs emerging like pupating insects.

Like many older death metal bands, the songs are akin to fragmented puzzle pieces haphazardly jammed together until forced to fit. However, an underlying sense of theme is present but by the time a song is at its end, that which was at the beginning is reduced to a degraded and mutilated wraith of its former self. Structurally, the album has an approach that while at a lesser speed than the brutal death of today in many ways feels just as if not more merciless in its delivery. They achieve this through an emphasis on their ability to juxtapose a wide variety of riffs and harmony with lucid clarity with abrupt shifts in direction and tone. Tense and unresolved patterns emerge only to be shot through a labyrinth of gnashing interruptive patterns, with weird bending harmonics used to deform the familiar into the monstrous while denser thudding chords fragment and smash any sense of smoothness and consistency. Strategically placed leads reinforce ideas, signifying climactic or resolving segments of a track as they scorch away murk and ambiguity in some perverse parody of closure. Moments of conventional melody are completely absent through they never enter Gorguts or Deathspell Omega territory, keeping their lead playing tight and occasionally using them alongside or even as riffs. There’s a constant sense that save for the eerie acoustic intro the EP is at war with itself, deforming and devouring its own ideas in an widening fully predatory food chain. Some riffs reappear to help provide balance but it’s a disarming illusion of safety. Rather than falling into verse-chorus patterns, they’re used as branching off points or after a chain of new growth, throwing the listener into a newfound vortex or forcing them to face a familiar and unnerving terror in a drastic new context. Wherever you go, there is little peace to be found save for when each track ends.

Maniacal and untamed, Faceless Burial’s newest EP is a step up from the debut and showcases their ideas with most horrifying clarity. It has the appearance of near-nonsensical depravity yet it’s hard not to notice the strange and carefully orchestrated forms into which it mutates and shifts. It’s refreshingly feral in its execution yet underneath its classic exterior hides something much more alien and disturbing than what people typically associate with the idea of “classic” or “oldskull” death metal today. A well-experienced listener will be able to pick out the influences that lead to its distinct creation with ease. The end result is not something that I could see happening in 1992. Multiversal Abattoir was borne of a mindset that arranges its vast knowledge of past forms and practices into a distinct new shrine not to early 90’s death metal but the unspeakable things hiding in both the hungry night and the lurking subconscious for which this genre has always been a most obedient vessel. Its only real shortcomings are the somewhat over-extended outros on its final two tracks, arguably meant to contribute to the mood but with how powerful they can evoke the dreadful and the macabre, it does feel like they unnecessarily pad out the songs. A whole album of this sans that shortcoming however would be practically unstoppable. Fans of the weirder and more surreal end of the genre looking for something as grounded as it is disorienting and unnerving will do well to check out this EP when it drops in December.

4 out of 5 horribly fistulated toilets.

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