(Andy Synn returns to an irregular series in which he identifies favorite things that come in fives.)
Earlier today I finally found time to finish off my monthly helping of reviews for London Metal Monthly, the free magazine/webzine for which I moonlight when I’m not terrorizing the NCS readership with my overly-opinionated and utterly scintillating wordsmanship.
It’s a very different way of working than we have here at NCS Towers, with (relatively) stricter deadlines and (much) stricter word counts. In fact it’s a real struggle sometimes to say something meaningful about an album in only 140 words. Often, in-depth detail has to take second place to a focussed discussion of overall quality. If I’m very lucky I can find room to give an impression of the overarching themes and vibe of the album, but generally if I want to say anything particularly meaningful it has to be short, sweet, and succinct.
One of the albums on my slate this time around was Abysmal, the seventh slab of Melodic Death Metal might from our much beloved friends in The Black Dahlia Murder, and since I didn’t really have time to go as deep into the album as I might have liked, I’ve been inspired to put together this little list pulling together some of my favourite “deep cuts” from the band’s post-Nocturnal era.
So… shall we begin?
“Deathmask Divine” (from Nocturnal)
Of course the obvious choice here would have been “Everything Went Black”, which is not only the best song on the album, but also one of the best song’s they’ve ever written. However the rest of Nocturnal is no slouch either, and “Deathmask Divine” is another close-contender for my overall affections, with its perfectly spiky At The Gates-meets-Dissection riff work and massive hooks (the juddering pre-chorus, as well as the rolling power of the chorus, both being prime examples), all powered by the unceasing battery of Shannon Lucas behind the kit.
“Throne of Lunacy” (from Deflorate)
Once again, the obvious choice from this one would be the near-untouchable “I Will Return”… either that or frantic opener “Black Valor” anyway… and both tracks are most definitely amongst my favourites that the band have ever produced (Deflorate might, in fact, be my favourite TBDM album, though the jury’s still out on that one). But if we’re talking less predictable and deeper cuts, then I’m going to have to plump for the often-overlooked “Throne of Lunacy”, which is not only one of the heaviest, most outright Death Metal-influenced tracks on the album, but also contains one of Ryan Knight’s finest-ever solos.
“Carbonized in Cruciform” (from Ritual)
I’ve gone on record several times to say that Ritual is a bit too filler-heavy for my tastes, particularly during the back half of the album (though the first three tracks are amongst the band’s finest). That being said, smack-bang in the middle of the album is the blackened gem of “Carbonized in Cruciform”, with its sizzling, barbed-wire tremolo runs and razor-toothed hooks that bear more than a faint hint of the legendary Storm of the Light’s Bane, along with another frankly killer solo and a dissonantly (a)melodic chorus that’s definitely catchy, yet not in a predictable manner. The little touches of acoustic guitar and piano on top of all that are just the icing on the cake.
“Every Rope A Noose” (from Everblack)
Although it also has a few more filler tracks than I’d like, I still find that Everblack takes more risks, and though it has less instantaneous “hits” than you might expect, its very best songs offer a lot more depth and nuance as a result. For this particular piece I ended up being split between fuligin-dark “Map of Scars” that closes out the record, and the eventual winner, the thoroughly blackened “Every Rope A Noose”, which pipped the other track to the post by virtue of the menacing, strychnine chords and brittle, punishing percussion during each verse, the absolutely pulverising blastbeats that rear their head part way through, and the sickening, spiralling solo that leads into the song’s eerily memorable conclusion.
“Stygiophobic” (from Abysmal)
And now we’re finally onto the album that sparked all this witless pondering, the knowingly-titled Abysmal. I’ve stated in my review of the album that it feels a bit like the band going “back to their roots” a little, without jettisoning the musical and songwriting developments of the intervening years, resulting in something which feels like a missing link bridging Miasma and Nocturnal.
The “blackened” darkness that’s seeped in over the last several records has definitely been pushed back a bit, and in its place there’s a bigger dash of gloriously bloody melodic colour… something that’s reflected very well by the album art, might I add!
It’s also an album a lot more focussed on making an instant impact, with the songs feeling shorter, sharper, and more concise as a result. There’s also a bigger emphasis on the “Melodic” part of their sound… though not at the expense of the “Death Metal” part. Still, despite all that, my personal pick goes for the coiling crusher that is “Stygiophobic”, which stands out for me simply due to being several shades darker and heavier than its compatriots.