(In this post, DGR reviews the new album by Abnormality from Marlborough, Mass.)
I’ve covered Massachusetts-based death metal up-and-comers Abnormality before. Granted, that site burned down and rests in ashes, but if you were following TNOTB in mid-2010 then you likely saw my review of these guys’ (and gal’s) EP The Collective Calm In Mortal Oblivion. I had gotten familiar with the group’s appearance prior to that in one of the Rock Band games, but was still impressed with their style of brutal death with some grind guitar work. They’re a five-piece consisting of four guys on instruments and one very talented lady handling the death growls.
Abnormality have kept going since then and have returned two years after Collective Calm with a full eight-song debut album that keeps going with the wordy titles — Contaminating The Hive Mind. Since I enjoyed Collective Calm, it was pretty much an unspoken rule that I’d be checking out this one in hopes that they could kick out eight songs of solid brutal death. The group have changed their sound slightly, due to some better production that makes them a little easier to hear, but yes, they have indeed given us eight songs of solid brutal death with very little in the way of compromise or ridiculousness. It’s a meat-and-potatoes death disc with a lot to offer genre fanatics and is also accessible enough to lure new people into the madness.
Contaminating The Hive Mind is a slab of death metal, about thirty-five minutes in length, that picks its foundation and sticks to it pretty rigidly. Abnormality have got the chops to hang with a lot of the more popular bands in the genre these days, but they’ve also become a bit more mathematical and machine-like in their writing. They make heavy use of a start/stop formula that sees the whole band picking up speed only to completely stop for a quick second and then picking right back up as if nothing happened. Those quick moments of silence are your only real reprieve from the low-end grinders that this band like to throw out. Title track and album closer “Contaminating The Hive Mind”, for instance, has a somewhat common beginning rhythm that bounces up and down before moving into a battering of blasts.
Abnormality are one of those bands who know how to play damn good music, but it’s when they decided to get a little weird, and in some cases a little insectile-sounding with the buzzing of their guitars, that you could really see Abnormality picking up a fan base. Maybe it’s a bit of a stretch, but once they hit those really buzz-filled riffs you can start to grasp the idea of why they chose the title Contaminating The Hive Mind.
Sometimes Abnormality can sound like an entirely different band for a little while. Some riffs on this disc seem heavily influenced by Behemoth, and one song in particular includes some guitar parts that sound straight out of the book of Misery Index. There are certainly worse bands you could sound like, so it isn’t a huge bother and it happens rarely enough that Abnormality are able to preserve their own identity, plus those moments are so brief that you’ll be quickly thrown back into Abnormality’s specialty of real wormy-sounding guitar parts and blasts, with the vocals adding an almost percussive element to the whole affair.
Quality-wise, Contaminating The Hive Mind measures up to the group’s previous EP, Collective Calm, and manages to build upon it. I’ve focused heavily on the band’s penchant for stuttering riffs, which they started with the song “Zealotry” from Collective Calm and continue to display here. They have also incorporated quite a bit of groove in the new release. Before, they were pretty blast-focused, yet their EP did suggest that more groove might be coming, and so adding a little bit more to Contaminating The Hive Mind feels like a natural progression.
As mentioned, the music is very much death-metal meat and potatoes that offers a lot to genre fanatics; any death metal fan can pick this up and run with it. However, luring people in from the outside may be more difficult. Abnormality may be able to appeal to them because of the production on this disc — it’s pretty goddamned clear. My single biggest complaint about these guys in the past was that the drums overpowered everything and made the guitars sound somewhat muddy. This time around, they have fixed all that.
That said, drummer Jay Blaisdell still beats the hell out of that kit. He propels this band forward at light speed on the new album. Even when the guitar parts are starting to crawl, he’s still rolling the hell out of those bass drums, which makes everything still so heavy. Contaminating The Hive Mind is also the clearest I’ve heard the guy, since the group’s previous mixes always had the snare drum way loud. Not as bad as Arsis’ We Are the Nightmare, but the drumming was about as huge.
Abnormality features a twin-guitar attack on this album as well, with some awesomely obnoxious solos. The guitarists manage to pull in a variety of influences while still making everything sound like their own. The album also rides on a goddamn hefty low end that keeps up with the drums, which is a goddamned accomplishment. The bass player deserves a medal for being able to move along that fast on a bass.
Vocalist Mallika Sundaramurthy also turns in a solid-as-hell death metal performance. She can drop her vocals pretty goddamn low, and once they even get into unintelligible pig grunt territory. It’s a brutal performance. She also gets some really high shrieks into this album, enabling the listener to grasp that yes, it is a lady behind the vocals, but that doesn’t diminish the brutality of the music. She fits in well with this band and it turns out great.
Contaminating The Hive Mind is a good-to-great full album from a relatively new band, an insectoid-sounding, machine-like disc that should capture the ear of genre completists while proving approachable to listeners new to the genre. It kicks ass on the death metal front, and the guitars whipsawing around all the drumming make it interesting to hear. The percussive lyricism also matches what the rest of the band are doing, and sounds good. When the vocals roar, the band roar right behind them. Abnormality really shows that they can deliver the ass-kickings they promise.
Abnormality are a frightening batch of relative newcomers (though they’ve been around a while, by disc-count they seem new) who could honestly stun some folks. Contaminating the Hive Mind is a promising start on full-lengths, and I will keep my eyes locked on them. If they keep moving forward from here, it will be goddamned fantastic.
The new album can be downloaded on Bandcamp via this link. Here’s the stream:
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