United Kingdom based solo(ish) black/death metal (aka plague metal) outfit Abyssal have released three LPs over their short career—each one more complex than its predecessor. With their newest effort, Antikatastaseis, Abyssal have “chilled out,” so to speak—withdrawing from their prior, death metal-centric sound and focusing more on the atmospheric black metal elements of their writing (despite what you might hear in the first few seconds of the record). Although Antikatastaseis has its kinks and drawbacks, it’s a solid release that is well worth a listen.
Antikatastaseis opens like an industrial town arising from slumber to prepare for an upcoming war. The guitars are thick and heavy, like a morning fog—the hideous vocals and pulling undercurrent creating an amalgamation of noise similar to the sound of machinery. But as the walls of the song structure decay, there is beauty in the spatiality of it all. It’s black metal (more than is expected from Abyssal) but it’s heavy enough to include some doom and sludge influences, while thoughtful enough to toss in atmospheric and shoegaze-y elements. The band’s prior use of interludes has been scrapped in favor of blending those mood changers directly into the songwriting and the tracks themselves.
But as I said before…there are kinks: for example, very long buildups, such as the drum intro of “The Cornucopian.” There are elongated periods of what is nearly children’s music, such as “Veil of Transcendence.” But there is also absolutely brain-pounding heaviness on tracks like “Telomeric Erosion.” And that’s only three songs. Abyssal are not afraid to think and act outside the box. And for the most part, said thinking works.
Abyssal has also added atmosphere to the palette. On “A Casual Landscape,” Abyssal weaves drone-like synthesizers with carefully crafted, reverent-but-soft vocals giving the listener a reference point from which to enter the song. So when the anvil is dropped, and those oh-so-heavy guitars are unleashed, an image and focal point has already been solidified. As the monk-like vocals hide amid the driving, pragmatic heaviness, they are not only noticeable, but also integral—connecting the listener between the drastically different impositions of the track.
The seven tracks here clock in at just under an hour—long enough to provide a solid and fascinating listening experience. Abyssal is evil, like what’s found in the darkness of sleep or the loneliness of desolation. (There’s a kind of sonic kinship to Akhlys’ The Dreaming I, in that sense). The album works on many levels. Tracks like “Chrysalis” are even hummable and catchy. As for criticism, the album could probably do without the final twelve minute track, “Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas”; in fact, it’s hard not to think the album as a whole would be stronger without it. But even with its inclusion, Antikatastaseis is a solid listen and well worth the hour.