(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Aborted.)
A funny thing happened when I first listened to Retrogore… it didn’t click with me. At all. And I say this as a huge fan not only of the last two Aborted albums (both of which I consider amongst the top tier of their work), but as a huge fan of the Belgian brutalisers in general.
In fact it wasn’t until about a third of the way into the album that it finally started to get its hooks into me, with the first flurry of tracks in particular seeming to rush by in a faceless blur of blasts and riffs and breakdowns, grind parts, tech parts, and obtrusive melodeath licks, all of which screamed “EXTREME” at maximum volume, but really didn’t leave much of a lasting impression.
This was unsettling. I’m used to Aborted practically peeling my face off right from the very first track, and leaving me with some fresh new scars that I’ll cherish for a lifetime. And that most assuredly was not happening this time around.
Could Retrogore really be that much of a misstep, or was there just something wrong with me?
Well, the ultimate answer is a complicated one. I mean, there’s definitely something wrong with me… but, by the same token, the songs on Retrogore, by and large, simply don’t manage to reach the same heights as those found on Global Flatline or The Necrotic Manifesto.
Take the title-track for example – yes, it practically leaps out of the speakers and goes straight for your throat in a ravenous display of rapid-fire, hyper-adrenalized Death Metal, but it’s only the doomy chords and poisonous melodic malice of the song’s bridge that really stand out in hindsight, while the general stream of blasts and riffs and blasts and riffs (followed by more blasts, and more riffs) that make up the rest of the song could just as easily have come from any number of interchangeable Death Metalloids.
This criticism could apply to both “Cadaverous Collection” and “Whoremageddon” too. The former may throw in some more Melodeath-inspired, string-skipping fretwork and soloing into the melting pot, and the latter might be in possession of a killer, tremolo-driven chorus, but the overall package still somehow ends up as less than the sum of its parts, with a number of sections that seem to just whip past in a flurry of generic brutality.
It’s not that these are bad songs. It’s just that they’re Aborted doing Aborted. Nothing more, and nothing less. With nothing really special to make them stand out.
Thankfully, things take a major upswing with the bone-crushing “Termination Redux”, which signals the album really finding its groove (pun intended) and brings a greater sense of balance and character to the band’s mix of furious blastery and more technical riff work, along with an abattoir’s array of sharper, more infectious hooks and a dash of melody that works with, and not against, the grain of the track.
“Bit by Bit” keeps things on a high note as well, constructed around a solid backbone of chugging, staccato riffage and down-and-dirty death-grooves, all designed to get your neck moving and your blood pumping hard, as does the bleak melody and berserker blastery of “Divine Impediment”, which not only features a guest slot from Cattle Decapitation’s own Travis Ryan, but also a solid helping of filthy, spit-and-sputum-encrusted sonic swagger to really get you in the necromantic mood.
While “Coven of Ignorance” initially seems to be trying to get by on sheer intensity alone, a welcome infusion of slithering, serpentine melody, as well as some snarling guest vocals from Revocation frontman David Davidson and one shamelessly stratospheric solo, helps make this song another one of the album’s big highlights, something which “The Mephitic Conundrum” – despite some killer tremolo work and chugtastic main hook – can’t quite match up to.
Similarly, both “Forged for Decrepitude” and “From Beyond (The Grave)” return a little bit to the relatively faceless ferocity that defined the album’s early tracks, with the former in particular practically flashing past in blink-and-you’ll-miss-it fashion.
Just when you think that the section is going to be the only part of the album that really hits the heights we all know the band are capable of, however, along comes devastating closer “In Avernus”, which seizes upon two key elements of the band’s sound – bone-grinding grooves and eerie, necrosexual melody – and binds them together in bonds of unholy matrimony in order to bring the album to a positively crushing, if not entirely triumphant, close.
Despite its flaws Retrogore is still a solid slab of grisly Death Metal delights, albeit one that’s often prevented from reaching its true potential by a preponderance of generic songwriting and blunt, occasionally unremarkable, hooks.
I’ll grant you, it does have a run of almost sadistically awesome tracks in “Termination Redux”, “Bit By Bit”, “Divine Impediment”, and “Coven of Ignorance”, but too much of the album either gets bogged down in a pointless attempt to out-brutalise itself, or sticks too closely to the standard formula of Aborted: 101.
Of course, this being the internet and all, my daring to suggest that this isn’t the best album the band have ever done will probably garner the same sort of reaction from some people as if I’d raped their mother (and killed their dog), and so I fully expect a number of comments questioning my IQ, my parentage, and my sexuality, to appear within the next hour or so.
However, when all is said and done (and despite what certain fawning, sycophantic “reviews” might otherwise suggest), I have to conclude that Retrogore simply isn’t the band’s best work. In fact I’d probably put it about on a par with 2008’s oft-maligned, but not without merit, Strychnine.213, for those of you keeping score at home.
Still, if you’re looking for a good bludgeoning, you could definitely do much worse.