Abysmal Dawn’s Obsolescence: Sometimes Good is Just Good.
In some ways, it’s weird that death metal can be so sterilized. Most of the genre’s finest, most technical bands — Suffocation, Gorguts, Death, and so on — daub a fine layer of muck all over their most-cherished work. Not that modern death metal’s sheen is necessarily a bad thing: Not sure how Necrophagist’s Epitaph or Origin’s Entity would sound without their glossy mixes. The issue, though, is that sterile has become the norm. While this lets sweep-happy guitar nerds wank in stunning HD, it also threatens to rob their work of personality. Abysmal Dawn knows this, which must be why Obsolescence, their latest, sounds so fucking good. The band play gnarly riffs with such scientific precision that the studio magic doesn’t deprive them of any sort of burliness or character. Abysmal Dawn undoubtedly color within the lines of death metal, but the markers they’re using are far more interesting than random guys with a good sound engineer’s number.
Obsolescence‘s important parts align perfectly. The riffs are all simultaneously nasty and memorable, like death metal by Jeff Loomis (well, we already have an idea of what that sounds like). Charles Elliott’s vocals are gruff and fierce, an octave or so above pig squeals but more interesting than death metal’s garden-variety growls. But most of all, Abysmal Dawn sounds fucking pissed. Not evil, not warped, just angry. This buoys the skittering fretwork and blasts on “Devouring the Essence of God” and offets the inherent catchiness of “Perfecting Slavery.” (I think I can hear Darkest Hour cursing themselves for not writing the latter’s opening riff). This is recognizably brutal, techy death metal, but it still finds a way to leave a mark.
My favorite 2014 death metal releases are a bit esoteric (Dead Congregation, Auroch) or from old favorites (Origin, Cannibal Corpse, Autopsy, etc. etc. etc.). Abysmal Dawn falls into neither category. It gives me hope, though, that in a time when death metal has seemingly been scraped clean of its grit, Abysmal Dawn can put out a by-the-numbers release that still is pretty magnificent. After all, those numbers are still good, and the right kind of math could lead to something subtly different.