(DGR reviews the new album by Boston’s Abnormality.)
For a long time Abnormality were one of my pocket bands to always recommend to everyone whenever people were having their death metal offs, sharing their most brutal bands, their quickest groups, the ones they felt more people needed to hear. Abnormality have always been a good hybrid of those three reasons, and hence always ended up with me asking if people had heard of them: They were quick, brutal, and I honestly felt that they got better with each release and that more people needed to hear them.
Abnormality are a five-piece whirling machine of brutal death metal hailing from Massachusetts. They’ve been around for some time now, with a demo that hit in 2007 and two other releases to their name — a fantastic EP known as The Collective Calm In Mortal Oblivion, and an equally awesome album in Contaminating The Hive Mind. When news came out that Metal Blade had picked up the band for their most recent release, Mechanisms Of Omniscience, there was a sense that someone had finally gotten the hint.
Abnormality had always seemed destined to be a breakthrough sort of band, and it was shocking that the group had become something of a consistent slow and steady grower — each listen of Contaminating The Hive Mind had me thinking that if Abnormality were to find the right people to help them, they would grow exponentially.
Coming in nearly four years after Contaminating The Hive Mind, Abnormality’s newest release Mechanisms Of Omniscience is another disc that has me thinking exactly that, except this time, I really do think the band have an honest shot at getting out there, and judging by this disc — they’ll be getting out there big.
Mechanisms Of Omniscience clocks in at a little over thirty-eight minutes, and even though it may feel like I’m hamming on the point a bit, it is a quick thirty-eight minutes. Abnormality have a few trademarks to their name, and one of them is the group’s chosen tempo, which is very fast. The band’s style of death metal could best be described not only as propelled forward, but also as almost obsessed with moving forward as quickly as possible — shunting the listener through as much as the band can get in with each three-to-four-minute song.
In fact, up until Contaminating, it often felt like Abnormality’s idea of a groove-based riff was the start/stop dynamic that the band had seemingly adopted with some of their songs — meaning that if you enjoyed the rhythm of a piston moving at high speed, that was about the tempo that Abnormality were going to be moving at in terms of “groove”. If any death metal band were fit to be measured in sheer RPMs, Abnormality were going to be one of them.
There seems to have been a recent trend of bands naming their opening songs after not only what the song generally sounds like but also what could be described as a good summation of the band. Much like Anaal Nathrakh did on 2014’s Desideratum with “Unleash” (which is pretty much every Nathrakh song once you get past the opening note and the band put their foot on the accelarator), Abnormality do so with “Swarm” — which is also the second “Swarm” I’ve crossed paths with in this lovely month of April, the first also being an opening song, for October Tide’s Winged Waltz.
The two are very different songs. This “Swarm” (which we had the pleasure of premiering) not only describes the general tone of the song but is also one hell of an introduction to the band’s overall style of music, where a huge swath of buzzing guitar riffs cuts through the air as quickly as possible, notes just being flung out of their instruments with zero regard for the listener’s safety. At a certain point, it starts to sound like a legitimate swarm of angry insects; much of Abnormality’s guitar sections tend to sound like you’ve stuck your head into an angry hornet’s nest.
Almost immediately recognizable is also the group’s drumming battery, with its snare drum and its overall pop that still retains a little rattle-can sound, as if it was kicked out of the slam scene for sounding a little too good. It has a tight overall sound, with drum lines that tend to make Abnormality sound like they’re backed by a military performance band of marching drummers, and then somebody else handling the rest of the kit, hyper-quick double bass hits and all.
Abnormality tread a very fine line between being highly technical and ravenously brutal. The band propel themselves forward by a bevy of blast hits that slot in alongside the quick moving guitar sections — but on top of that, they are also the beneficiaries of an insane amount of cymbal work in between all that, guaranteeing there is nary a moment of silence (except where the band have purposefully placed some interstitial breathers) and something is always either crashing or reverbrating off into the space.
The opening parts of the title track, “Mechanisms of Omniscience”, contain some of the start/stop style of writing that I was referring to, helping to punctuate what is actually a genuine and grinding, grooving section from Abnormality. It manages to last all of about… twenty seconds… before the band punch it in the teeth and drag the rest of the song screaming into a relentless mass of quick-moving death metal sections for a minute and then breaking out one of the harshest sounding screams on the disc to drop back into a groove for a brief section.
Follower “Catalyst Of Metamorphosis” is one of the two previously described breathers that the band give you, alongside the later track “Assimilation”. Both songs are works that start out fairly ambient, with a quiet pulsating rhythm that then builds into a larger and slower-moving instrumental section. “Catalyst” has a pretty hefty bass line running through the whole song, which is pretty good for causing sound systems to rumble, and both songs find themselves serving as extended intros for their follow-on siblings. In the case of “Catalyst”, it’s the six-minute death metal epic of “Vigilant Ignorance”, and “Assimilation” spills into the more traditional riff-mess of “Cymatic Hallucinations”.
In the four years since the group’s last disc, Abnormality have also managed to try some interesting new things alongside their usual slate of relentless assaults and scorched-earth policy of song-writing. Most tend to be tucked in between all of their trademark sounds, but a few of the groups progression’s have manifested themselves as full-blown tracks.
Closing song “Consuming Infinity” sees the band treading into Wormed’s territory, full-blown, nigh-unintelligable low-end growls and all, layered over an immensely dense song that has the band parked in the brutal section of their genre venn diagram.
“Vigilant Ignorance”, the aforementioned epic song, is firmly ensconced as Mechanism’s centerpiece, as the six-minute run-time allows the band to move through a variety of different machinations in one track. They shift from their standard motif of insanely fast into some grinding guitar work, and some super-low growl sections for the times when the words “vigilant ignorance” are mentioned — as if they were being summoned from the depths. The sudden stop in the song in between two quick-moving segments is a nice touch and a fun break that spills into a catchy note-laden riff that seems to lie somewhere between guitar segment and finger exercise.
“Irreversible” is another fun and more simplistic track, basically built around a buzzsaw swarm of guitars that just grind through sound like a saw through meat. The slow-moving groove and guttural growls of “Irreversible”, which stand on their own as pretty much the only words punctuating the end of each packed verse, and the sudden stop at the end of the song pretty much ensure it is going to get stuck in your head for days.
If you’ve been a long-time follower of Abnormality, Mechanisms Of Omniscience isn’t a huge change in terms of sound – it is simply them doing what they do best and stretching things along the fringes. A new record label didn’t represent a huge shift for the band, simply a way for them to ply their works to a much wider crowd, and Mechanisms could see the band leaving a shockwave behind them.
It has all the Abnormality traits that you’ve come to know since they really found their sound on their Collective Calm EP (specifically in the song “Zealotry”, you can hear a lot of what the band does now), and in between the band have found a way to break the start/stop dynamic of their writing with some more traditional death metal grooves. They really drill down into what makes their brand of death metal tick and then they slowly pick it apart and rebuild it to exacting specifications.
Mechanisms Of Omniscience is Abnormality’s most polished-sounding and dynamic release to date and stands head and shoulders with everything else they’ve released so far.
Mechanisms of Omniscience will be released by Metal Blade on April 29.