Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Abysmal Dawn - Leveling the Plane of Existence (2011)

Californian death metal. In the past decade we have been inundated with scores of brutal, belligerent bands who seamlessly marry the extremity of their influences with thirsty technical ability and the psycho-intellectual ardour of apocalyptic futurism. Names like Decrepit Birth, Severed Savior, Odious Mortem and The Faceless instantly come to mind, but in truth there are a large number of similar minded acts who are not necessarily attempting to reinvent the grinding wheels from which they have been spawned, but steer their vehicles of devastation through sidereal expanses of terrain that continue to entertain the willing younger generation of death metal fanatics (and rare old timers) who don't shun their explosive proficiency. Abysmal Dawn is one such act, and through their deals with Relapse and Crash Music, they have numbered themselves among the most visible in this burgeoning scene.

Whether they deserve the recognition or not is up for debate. I found both of their previous albums, From Ashes and Programmed to Consume to be decent, but ultimately too easy to relegate to the pile of forgetfulness. Great cover art, fluid technical abilities and enough of the sheer brutal aesthetic to satisfy fans of their primary influences like Suffocation, Morbid Angel and Cryptopsy, but little to grasp beyond a few mere dizzying headbang sessions. They are certainly capable of whittling out appropriate, acrobatic riffs: check the :48 second mark in "Rapture Renowned" or the driving, melodic spike that opens "Manufactured Humanity". But more often than not, the brighter moments are packaged within mere functional ballast that seems to exist only to fill the space of the composition. The band is never quite so schizoid and waltzing as Odious Mortem, extraneously jazzy as The Faceless, or ominous as Decrepit Birth, but they share a lot in common with most of the California counterparts.

Leveling the Plane of Existence is far from a boring album. Their jerking dynamic skills alone will guarantee that you don't doze off through the 40 minutes of material, but there are simply too few moments that manifest into something really gripping. The solos are competent but often feel like they stretch just a few seconds long into meaninglessness, and the breakdowns offer nothing more than chugging, ballistic competence. The production is polished and low end, with moments like the muted intro to "In Service of Time" as the control group, but at best the band pull off a few great riffs that serve them as a West Coast alternative to early Decapitated. There is certainly a market for this style, and Abysmal Dawn obviously put effort forward in the album's creation, but I found it subtly less enjoyable than their last two, and I think they've got better in them.

Verdict: Indifference [6.75/10]
(cleansing acts of insidious evolution)


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