Review Summary: An Eye on the Universe (one slowly being blown to bits)
Self-described as “a delightful post-hardcore quintet” Abraham is a band with a bit of an identity crisis. I don’t doubt that they’re made up of five magnificently bearded switzermen, but after hearing to their first LP, An Eye on the Universe
, I can’t fathom how anyone could compare it to any post-hardcore, new or old. And if you’re looking for something that by definition is “delightful”, you will not find it in their sludge-filled, abrasive debut. The deception here is what is delightful, and from the first booming riff on the opener, Coyote vs. Machete
, I was no longer disappointed that Abraham wasn’t what I’d been led to believe.
Creating an uninterrupted wall of sound is just one of the features worth noting that Abraham does incredibly well on more than half the tracks of An Eye on the Universe
. With an explosiveness that arguably pummels well-established sludge band Cult of Luna
’s record, The Beyond
, they’ve accomplished a feat that’s very impressive for a band in their beginnings. They emit a very aggressive feeling of seizure in their intense style that occurs without warning and without mercy, but it’s important to note that this is no slow, doom-ridden chugfest of who can sound the bluntest and the loudest. It’s apparent through the complex layers of sharp guitars, crunchy bass and drumming that refuses to be treated as a disposable metronome, that Abraham is not after those titles.
The vocals are an even mix of harsh and clean, and while perhaps that’s what leads Abraham to believe they’re a modern post-hardcore act, their take on this convention is not typical. Unfortunately often drowned out by all the power of the instrumentations, their low rumbling vocals set a threatening tone to the thunderous apex sections of standout tracks like the volatile Astro Zombies
(not a The Misfits cover) or the sludge-oozing Bullet Dozer
. Abraham’s clean vocalist, who, while not a style everyone will enjoy (for his lack of focus), has a unique quality of desperation, strain and urgency. The second track, Saloon Bizarre
, opens with these vocals and establishes a hopeless feeling, foreboding the cataclysm before the rest of the instrumental weaponry trickles in. In a more versatile spin, these clean vocals go gang-style on the rampaging (but also shortest) track, The Statues
and then collide elusively with the harsh vocals near the end of Bullet Dozer
Besides being a terrifying leviathan beast, Abraham’s also given proper treatment to the other side to their music. In a pleasant contrast, the intensity of their heaviness is equally matched by pensive, subdued segments of song. Sounding half like a band of angry astronauts, half like Pelican
’s soaring post-metal cousin, they make dramatic (though sometimes awkward) transitions into quieter parts while still maintaining their energy. They channel an obvious influence, lesser-known post-hardcore band Breach
in the way their distressed, high pitched guitars and tones burn through your ears, gliding over a droning bass in one such part at the start of Hellsinki
before launching into a severe climax.
Of course, few debuts are without their faults and structure is one of Abraham most problematic flaws. Saloon Bizarre
and the disturbing Herz, Knie, Staub
wouldn’t be the half-rate tracks they end up being if the band just paid a little more attention to how they transition between in-song parts. The latter often starts and stops which proves to be fairly irritating, especially since the segments in between, non-descript monotonous filler riff don’t do much to save the song at all. And while Abraham does well to keep their album cohesive, often transitioning seamlessly from one song to the next (as the closer Baruch
does from Hellsinki
) and using motifs as a way to keep the listener interested in the album as a whole, the way most of the tracks on this could be mistaken for one single track is a little tiresome.
But damn, as a debut? This is like the surprise one would feel if a 4th grader started reciting Thus Spoke Zarathustra
in a voice deeper than a burly man could even fake. An Eye on the Universe
plays like the saga to an omniscient creator ruthlessly destroying everything and anything of depth he’d formally put into existence. If this is what Abraham can do with only one eye on the universe, I can’t even imagine what they’ll be able to do once they open the other.