Released: 2014, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
L.A.’s Abysmal Dawn have been doling out proficient, occasionally brilliant technical death metal for going on a decade. And after opening their fourth and latest album with the incendiary and insanely catchy “Human Obsolescence,” which might get your hopes up for something more evolutionary or revolutionary, Obsolescence ends up offering pretty much more of the same, for better or worse.
Ostensibly the title track, “Human Obsolescence” literally roars to life with frontman Charles Elliot’s catamount-like “Eeeeeeaaaaaagggggghhhhhh!” – which he repeats a couple times more later in the song, as well as elsewhere, the guy must have cast-iron tonsils - as the music explodes underneath and then envelopes you like napalm. Driven by Scott Fuller’s strafing drums and Elliot and Andy Nelson’s infectious, slashing hooks and surprisingly sultry leadwork, it’s the perfect opening track and I'd venture to say one of the most savagely effective death metal songs of the year.
But things fall into a fairly familiar place soon thereafter. “Perfecting Slavery,” where Elliot's vocals crawl to the lower recesses of his gut, keeps things rolling in a somewhat chunkier, gnarlier fashion. Yet here, too, the song is a-swirl in hurtling licks, sleek, sweeping solos – this time with Obscura's Christian Muenzer lending a hand - and drum fusillades. Same goes for “Devouring The Essence of God,” “One Percent Complete,” “By My Demons,” etc.
The magic that worked so effectively on the opener begins to fade as the cycle is repeated and the songs start running together. Even after a numerous listens, it can be a bit tough telling which song from which, were it not for devices like “By My Demons” terse, barking chorus.
There are a few change-ups here. “Inanimate,” “Laborem Morte Liberat Te” and “Loathed In Life - Praised In Death” slow the pace by half and pound away more methodically. But once again, the band return to much the same battle plan with each of the slower tracks and they start to feel a bit redundant.
Much cooler is the album's finale, a one-two punch of the epic “The Inevitable Return of Darkness” and an even more monumental bonus cover of Dissection's “Night's Blood.” “Darkness” begins in a blur, but builds and builds as its tempo slows before giving way to the faithful, rather spectacular remake of “Night's Blood,” capturing all of its majesty – acoustic midsection and all - while delivering the added heft and might that 20 years of better production know-how can bring.
It's fantastic finish that matches the promise of the opening. If only the middle were equally as magnificent instead of just kinda meh!