Abyssal Vacuum’s new EP reveals a distinctive musical vision and “voice”, the three songs offering a conception of atmospheric black metal that manages to be both mesmerizing and strikingly intense. It’s described by the label that’s releasing it as emanations from a deep and cavernous abyss, “like exploring the darkest caves of Earth”, but the experience it creates might also bring to mind the mysteries of the cosmos lurking in a hostile off-world void.
Abyssal Vacuum is the solo project of French creator Sebastien B. (of Dyslumn and Ominous Shrine), and the project’s first release, which was recorded around the end of 2017, is being made available this week, both digitally and on cassette tape, by the French label Solar Asceticists Productions. What we have for you today is the premiere stream of all three tracks that appear on the EP.
All three songs share certain qualities and make use of similar musical elements and strategies, and listening to all of them together thus creates an ever-deepening immersive experience; the mesmerizing aspect of each song individually becomes compounded by the mounting effect of the three of them together. But each song also includes differing ingredients that make each one distinctive.
The EP’s first track begins with strange, flickering, wailing electronic tones — and the riffs themselves in all of the songs have an eerie wailing quality. The high, penetrating tremolo chords vibrate and echo (with a slight coating of scratchy distortion) in a way that does mesh with the concept of alien tones ringing off the walls of deep cavernous spaces. The lead guitar lines are even more intense, but they both mesh with and enhance the music’s strange and haunting atmosphere.
The vocals themselves have a cavernous quality. Rather than the more typical rasps and shrieks of black metal, these horrifying, monstrous roars wouldn’t be out of place in a death/doom band. On the other hand, not everything is processed through an echo chamber. The bass and drum elements of the music stand out in the mix, with a clarity of production that makes the presence of both quite powerful, and they quickly become noticeably vital ingredients in the success of the music.
The way in which Abyssal Vacuum blends these common ingredients together in changing patterns is part of the music’s fascination. The powerful blast-beat fusillades in the songs are not ever-present; the changing tempos and rhythmic styles in the drumming provide a key source of variety beneath the waves of unearthly guitar melody, as do the variations in the impressive bass lines. Sometimes everything is going at high speed, but even more often some things are happening in a furious rush while other things have simultaneously become slow and steady.
The mood of the music reveals subtle changes as well, even though all of the songs generate that intense and eerie atmosphere of void-like mystery and peril referred to above. The first song often seems ferocious and exultant, though laced with guitar patterns that sound like cries of a grieving phantom. The second song generates a mood that seems more like a feeling of grief-stricken desolation, and there’s a place in the song when the drumming stops and the bass begins a slow, moody melodic pattern that continues to loop through the music even after the other instruments return and the guitar soars in a kind of spectral, cosmic shining. In the closing minutes, the rhythms and riffing stops altogether, replaced by ambient sounds that seem to open a portal into a vast void.
Every song, to varying degrees, includes a mood of melancholy, but the third song is the most depressive in its aura. The ghastly roars in the vocals are joined by agonized cries; some of the riffing captures the derangement of a splintering mind; an intense, warbling guitar lead amplifies the feeling of soul-shattering grief; at the end, the music stops, and you hear something like the sound of drizzling rain falling on vacant streets, or the fall of drops in a cold cavern far below the surface of our world.
This is, in short, a very impressive debut, and hopefully not the last musical visions we will get to experience from Abyssal Vacuum. You can order it now from Solar Asceticists Productions via the first link below, both digitally and in a limited edition of 70 hand-numbered tapes accompanied by some interesting enhancements described at the Bandcamp page. The label recommends the EP for fans of Arizmenda, Spectral Voices, and Mefitic.