Sometimes death metal and punk can share a similar foundation. (Some might call it grindcore instead of punk.) That’s the case with Abyss and their upcoming LP Heretical Anatomy. The album flies at the pace of a grind/crust band but is certainly, and unmistakably, death metal. However, the band adds touches of punk in the breakdowns and bridges that make the band more accessible than your average death metal outfit. Maybe it’s because they hail from Toronto and therefore must be much nicer people than their Scandinavian and American counterparts. Whatever the reason, this is a gateway band that’s put out a very exciting record.
Formed in 2009, Abyss is unequivocally a young band—but they do not sound immature. For this, their first official full length, the band worked with engineer Chris Hegge at Audiolab in Toronto and tapped Joel Grind (Toxic Holocaust) to step in on production. The band doesn’t take the opportunity for granted as they pump out eight tightly composed tracks. Most of the tracks are around three minutes; only “Thrall of the Elder Gods” pushes the boundaries a bit, at nearly six minutes in length. As a result, it’s probably the weakest track on the album. not that it’s bad, per se, but when you compare it to rippers like the title track, “Chained to Extinction,” and “Atavistic Decay” there’s just a bit of a gap, quality wise.
The album opens with the title track, and the guitars fuzz their way through an astronomical haze before unleashing a vicious torment of grinding death metal. Cherish the fifty seconds of calm because they will be your last. David Kristiansen’s vocals are phlegm-filled and tyrannical, gripping the listener and bending their ears to the band’s aggressive assault. The title track contains a fiery, thrash-inspired solo and blistering pace.
Songs like “The Atonement,” “Prophecies of Churning Horror” and “Flesh Cult” reveal the bands grindier side. The latter two songs open with a tirade of blast beats that return throughout, and neither overstays its welcome; “Flesh Cult” clocks in at a mere fifty-two seconds, while “Prophecies” is only marginally longer but makes space for another thrash-laced, ripping solo. “The Atonement”—the longest of these at three and a half minutes—is likely also the most successful. The vocals encroach on a Black Flag era punk style where the lyrics are actually audible and clear despite their gutteral quality. It’s a real burner that heaves and rocks between grind and death—a must listen.
Heretical Anatomy hits like a ton of bricks—like Mike Tyson connecting on a right hook. It’s got what I love most: raw emotion and transparency. There’s just something about it that connects your groin to the music. Perhaps it’s so enthralling because the first three tracks are so exceptional that you simply can’t stop once you get that far. But…nah, it’s more than that. Abyss is clearly a band on the rise and a band that you will want to see live. Their songwriting ability is exceptional and they are never one-dimensional in their approach. There is a terrific method in the madness.