Released: 2016, Deathgasm Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
While I am by no means and all-knowing authority – far from it, in fact – I consider myself at least reasonably tuned in to the metal underground – the mid and upper crusts, anyway. Yet, somehow, Kentucky-based self-proclaimed “goat” metallers Abominant managed to evade my radar – for more than 20 years.
I can take some solace in knowing I'm not alone, since the band's Facebook page boasts less than 1,500 “likes,” but still. I had heard of the band in passing, but had never actually heard them, much less saw them – despite living one state away in Virginia and near one of the regular stops on the death metal/local band circuit, the now-departed Jaxx/Empire club.
But all that has now changed, and it would seem I may have some catching up to do. The band's 11th, for Christ's sake, full-length ended up in my e-mail inbox recently, and I'm glad it did.
Napalm Reign makes quite a first impression with the blitzkrieg sound effects and full-throated “rrrroooaaarrr!” from frontman Mike Barnes' – who is an imposing presence throughout - that open the lead track “No Peace” and pin you to the wall before it really even gets going. And it's a pretty brutal ride from hereon out – with some notable exceptions that I will speak of in a bit.
Apparently “goat metal” is Kentucky-speak for “blackened death metal,” since that's what most accurately describes the band's sound here. Most of Napalm Reign's 11 tracks mash together furious Dark Funeral/1349-style riffing/tremolo, double-tracked Deicide-like husky growling punctuated by demonic screaming and idiosyncratic arrangements reminiscent of Mayhem. Yet it's a pretty satisfying and, for the most part, consistent brew.
The sinister “Hordes of Desolation”and “Truth Beyond Belief,” the aforementioned “No Peace,” the unrelenting surge of “Burning Hemispheres” and the wickedly hooky “As Evil Rears Its Head” are all standouts. “Out Of The Shadows” changes things up by mixing in sparse and loping slow passages that make it that much more malevolent while the mid-tempo chug of “The Watchers” echoes Testament, especially in Barnes' assertive baritone.
There are, however, a couple of genuine “what the fuck?” moments here. The clean-sung, falsetto-pocked power metal of “Iron Clad” and the speed metal cover of Exciter's “Scream In The Night” are odd ducks that make it seem like Anvil stopped in to have a go. They are so out of place that they stop things dead in their tracks. And both are more irritating than endearing curiosities, with grating highs and cheesy riffs – especially “Iron Clad.” Bleh! What the fuck, indeed.
Still, there's not denying the blackened death metal bona fides of the rest of the album. Goats or no, Abominant flat out rip on Napalm Reign and definitely leave me wondering what I've been missing all these years.