Review Summary: A compilation of Abruptum's early material. Get ready for some low end filth swimming in weirdness.
Abruptum were a particularly odd Swedish black/death metal band known for their unorthodox approach and almost free-form style. They began in the late 80s/early 90s with two musicians named IT (all instruments) and All (vocals), also known for playing together in the epic black metal group Opthalamia and the incomprehensibly weird and humorous Vondur. "Evil Genius" compiles their demos and first EP, a period in which they played a primitive, plodding, horrific style of black/death metal. While on later albums they would degenerate into an almost completely improvisational cacophony, at this stage they had some semblance of song structure. Despite being frequently mocked for their goofy over the top themes and imagery, Abruptum managed to make some of the most violent, ugly, eerie and strange stuff conceivable.
The production is as good as can be expected with demo stage underground metal, but still has enough clarity to easily decipher each instrument and allows their low end, chunky, bassy sound to creep and crawl along at optimum levels of filth. The riffs are slow to mid paced and frequently sound more like bludgeoning death/doom than black metal. The guitar sound is right down in the low end of the spectrum, churning out horrendous and disgustingly pounding riffs. The bass has a real clunky reverberating tone and fills out the rhythm to disastrously heavy proportions. The drums perhaps add the most to the agonizingly violent sound, bashing on the toms and bass drum and eerily creeping in behind ominous rhythms. The vocals alternate between low grunts, high pitched screams and weird moanings and groanings intended to convey the sounds of torture (some have claimed that singer All was actually tortured during some of their recordings to produce genuine screams). At times the vocals are a little too over the top, most especially the seemingly homoerotic moaning in the beginning of the ninth track. They also make use of synths, mostly with an organ effect playing off-key notes and shooting into spasms in some of the more heavy and weird parts. The musicianship all around is amateur, and the mistakes, poor timing and abrupt changes (perhaps the namesake of the band?) create a generally unhinged spastic sound. On the whole the album is a low rumbling shifting cacophony of oddities, and possesses an original, off the wall and zany sound I really dig.
Abruptum's "Evil Genius" compilation constitutes their most accessible and coherent efforts and is ideal for a new listener. Regardless, they're still an extremely bizarre and abrasive group, and the criticisms and attacks against them are understandable considering their aesthetic, style and sound are generally difficult to stomach. Personally I can't get enough of the primitive filth found on this album, and I even enjoy their three follow-ups which are even less inviting and listener friendly. While most people will either laugh or cringe at these guys, there are some who dig the most uncompromisingly harsh stuff around regardless of the goofs who make it. I most especially recommend this to fans of gritty demo stage death metal (or death/doom) rather than fans of early black metal, on account of it fits in a lot better with the former than the latter. Abruptum remain a weird little gem in my eyes and I'll continue to feast my ears on this unearthly masterpiece.