The superb Greek death metal band Abyssus was on a pretty regular once-a-year release schedule from their debut EP in 2012 to their most recent split in 2016, but last year came and went without a release, although the band continued to be active on stage. But now a new Abyssus EP named Unleash the Storm is headed our way via the Mexican label Death In Pieces Records. It will be released in March and will serve as a kind of precursor to a new Abyssus album, Death Revival, that’s expected within the next year. And we have the good fortune to bring you a song from the new EP today.
The EP includes two brand new songs (“Operation Ranch Hand” and “Unleash The Storm”) and three cover songs from Bathory (“The Rite of Darkness”), Venom (“Warhead”), and Manilla Road (“Open the Gates”). The track we’re premiering is one of those two new original songs, “Operation Ranch Hand“. It is not a country-western song.
Abyssus began life in 2011 as the solo project of Athenian vocalist and musician Kostas Analytis and he was eventually joined by guitarist Panos Gkourmpaliotis and bass-player Kostas Ragiadakos. Following a series of EPs and splits (which were later re-released in the 2016 compilation album Once Entombed…), the band discharged their debut full-length Into the Abyss via the Memento Mori label at the end of October 2015.
That album was my own first exposure to what these guys do, and it made me an immediate fan. Into the Abyss was a full-force assault of old school death metal with a doom undercurrent that inspired fond memories of lots of classic bands — among them, Asphyx, Benediction, Bolt Thrower, Autopsy, and Massacre, but perhaps most especially Obituary. The songs were well-written, well-performed, and as infectious as they were head-wrecking, both when the band were in rampaging mode and when they were stalking in the dirge of a grisly funeral procession.
It’s also worth mentioning that, lyrically, the album was a bit unusual for a death metal record, since many of the songs were based on historical events. “Enthrone the Insane” was inspired by the Roman emperor Nero (37-68 A.C.); “Across the Fields of Death” focus on the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War (October 25th, 1854); and “Visions of Eternal Pain” was inspired by the allied bombing of the Piraeus Harbor in Greece on January 11, 1944.
Since the release of Into the Abyss, the Abyssus line-up was augmented during 2016 by the addition of guitarist Christos Liakos and drummer Jan Westermann, and that expanded line-up was in the studio for the recording of this new EP.
I mentioned Abyssus‘ interest in historical events because “Operation Ranch Hand” is in line with that. It begins with a well-known excerpt from Apocalypse Now and concludes with a sample about America’s use of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. And “Operation Ranch Hand” was itself the name of a U.S. military operation in Vietnam lasting approximately nine years in which (according to this source) the U.S. Air Force sprayed an estimated 20 million U.S. gallons (76,000 m3) of defoliants and herbicides over rural areas of South Vietnam, the majority of those gallons contaminated with chemicals that were known human carcinogens.
As for the music itself, it starts like the sound of a lumbering behemoth and then becomes a rampaging juggernaut of old school destruction. Propelled by razor-sharp, skull-hammering drumwork with interesting variations (including bursts of rapid, reverberating, somersaulting rumbles), the song includes both drilling riffs that writhe and wriggle in a feeding frenzy (like a school of piranha) and others that deliver highly headbangable jabs. Kostas Analytis delivers the lyrics in a high, raw, howling voice that recalls the great Martin van Drunen, and the song also includes a brilliant, scalding solo that shrieks, swoops, dives, and wails like a ghost.
Abyssus are definitely back, and that’s very good news indeed.
Look for Unleash the Storm in March. It was recorded at Ignite Studio, with mixing and mastering at Unreal Studios. And that great, grisly cover art was created by Mfa Xii.
DEATH IN PIECES: