Review Summary: The groove-age has begun
The more I write brutal death metal reviews, the more I’ve come to realize exactly what the genre’s critics have always argued. There’s no denying that brutal death is in a somewhat stagnant position; where bands only sound radically different to those individuals who invest sufficient time into it. After all, it’s a bit of a challenge to write a review within the genre without mentioning [at least] one other band to describe the sound. Once in awhile though, a new band emerges and puts a fresh spin on the formula (it should be noted however, that a band can only deviate so much from this "formula" without being considered in a different genre entirely). Abysmal Torment is one of these bands.
Hailing from Malta, a country relatively dry in terms of brutal death, Abysmal Torment are a five-piece outfit where there are two vocalists as opposed to the typical two guitarists. Their first offering, an MCD, was great, yet incredibly derivative; both of which adjectives received a promotion by their first studio album, Epoch of Methodic Carnage
. With this release, we see a band finding their voice; it’s clear that they have no intentions of becoming the next Suffocation, but the first Abysmal Torment.
As I implied earlier, this doesn’t make Abysmal Torment the Gorguts of the brutal scene. Their style is unique and it can’t really be described by just namedropping bands, but they aren’t absolutely revolutionary by any means. What Abysmal Torment construct is absurdly groovy and catchy brutal death metal with ever-so-slight industrial inclinations. If you’re familiar at all with the genre, you might be scoffing at the mention of ‘groovy’ in a brutal review; probably the mention of ‘catchy’ as well, while we’re at it. Don’t worry though, this isn’t the same kind of ‘groovy’ used to describe Devourment, Cephalotripsy, or whatever your grandmother’s favorite slam band might be; that is to say there is no excessive slamming (though they do exist here). Nor is it the same 'catchy' used to describe…well…let’s just say they don’t sacrifice any brutality for the sake of being catchy.
Epoch of Methodic Carnage
has the band falling into some stereotypes though. For instance, the album is bookended by two short samples, but where they break the mold is that the samples are actually used effectively. Both of them are just short phrases, where the first is an utterance of “The carnage has begun…” followed by a whispered: “all shall be undone,” before it races off into the neck-snapping intro riff to Relapse Into Sickness
. The album also ends, almost humorously, with a voice clip from the Saw films: “Congratulations, you are still alive.” Overall the two samples in question actually add to the cohesiveness of the album. Aside from that, there is also the typical gore-themed lyrics, and then of course the artwork.
It's safe to say that Abysmal Torment have a unique riffing style, compliments of David Depasquale, which is where much of the ‘catchy’ and ‘groovy’ comes from. The majority of it flirts with technicality, but it never even peeks into the realm of wankery; there isn’t a single lead to be found here either. It suffices to say that the riffing is one of the album’s highlights along with the drumming. Again, this is not a case where boundaries are being stretched, but Abysmal Torment’s drummer, Wayne Vella, is a more than competent drummer to say the least; it also doesn't hurt that the production benefits the drums greatly. Much of the music is littered with lightning fast fills where Vella isn’t blasting away. I don’t know if it’s just me, but it sounds like he gets tired somewhat easily during extended periods of blastbeats, whereas his fills are impeccable and almost rejuvenating. Don’t get me wrong though, by no means is it blast-fill-blast-blast-fill; there is some variation here. For instance, Vella and Depasquale make an expert tag team during the last minute of the title track, where after a bit of silence a short sample is played which results in the band bursting out into one of the grooviest outros you will ever hear.
For the sake of mentioning the vocals, there are
two vocalists after all, they don’t really make much of an impact. Given that there isn’t much variation in the sounds they make, and that their voices are nigh indistinguishable from each other, it doesn’t seem necessary to have two of them. As for a comparison, (here is the only area where they are comparable to another band), it’s easiest to say that the vocalist(s) sounds like a phlegmier version of the young Frank Mullen (Suffocation).
The album contains plenty of accessible elements, therefore people should find little to no trouble in seeing past their preconceived ideas of the genre and finding something to enjoy. If you’ve been looking to break into brutal death metal, Epoch of Methodic Carnage
would be an excellent place to start. If you’ve already written off the genre, there’s a chance that this soon-to-be colossus just might change your mind about it.
Relapse Into Sickness
Befouled With Zest
Epoch of Methodic Carnage