Abyssal Antikatastaseis

[Profound Lore; 2015]

Styles: soft focus death metal
Others: Portal, Grave Miasma, Swallowed

Fans are fickle. We want so much and yet can rarely agree on what it is that we want. Artists, of course, are also fickle and can’t always find whatever sound it is they’re searching for. To the frustration of us both, these competing interests will occasionally clash, which unfortunately is the case with Abyssal’s new album Antikatastaseis. The album is fraught with noble attempts to experiment with the band’s death-metal style, but it sounds extremely light for the genre, and its concessions to out-of-bound sounds feel tacked on rather than fully integrated. It isn’t a complete misfire, even if it ultimately could have been better, but it fails to live up to expectations of being heavier, weirder, or both, simply because it is none of these.

Where Abyssal’s last album, Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius (which you can download from the band for free here), bore through our ears like a goddamn drill, Antikatastaseis seeks direction. It incorporates an awkward piano motif at its center, with a brief, tossed-off nod to disco in the last minute of the final track, “Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas.” But is it wrong to expect something more from a band championed as avant-metal, especially since there are plenty of examples in the genre of successfully incorporating acoustic instrumentation (see Obsequiae’s masterful lute solos on both Suspended in the Brume of Eos and this year’s Aria of Vernal Tombs) and odd rhythmic choices (I don’t really want to rep Blake Judd, but Nachtmystium already did the “black metal disco” thing on Adicts track “No Funeral”)?

The piano loop in Abyssal’s “Veil of Transcendence” is at least a fascinating rupture in the record’s facade. It sounds weird while also sounding “bad” on a technical level, as if Abyssal went to great lengths to highlight it, but the mix is working against them. When played mid track in absentia of the riffing, the piano melody is eloquent. When the rest of the song comes back in, it sounds out of place, even distracting behind the technical riffing, until the two dovetail at the end of the song. I’ve been torn about it the entire time I’ve spent listening to the album.

The rest of Antikatastaseis is serviceable to a fault. Prior to this album, Abyssal were more proficient at the murky tech riffs that occasionally sound like Gorguts demos and the almost de rigueur blackgazing on “Telomeric Erosion” and “Veil of Transcendence.” It feels like Antikatastaseis wants us to forget that these things have become somewhat standardized. However, none of this should deter you from actually scoping out the album. Abyssal seem to be on to something potentially new, but perhaps they’re just not fully capable of articulating it yet. In any case, I’m hopeful that Antikatastaseis will make more sense with time.

Links: Abyssal - Profound Lore

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