(Here’s DGR’s review of the new album by Abnormality, which was released by Metal Blade Records on May 10th.)
The blindingly-fast, whirlwind death metal crew Abnormality’s newest album Sociopathic Constructs starts off on an interesting note if you’re a longtime fan, with an opening song entitled “Monarch Alpha” — recalling the days of the group’s song “Monarch Omega”, which began the album Contaminating The Hivemind way back in the yonder days of 2012.
That earlier song could easily bore its way into your skull due to the repeated “MONARCH OMEGA” roar that tore its way through the track. Bringing up the spectre of that song and starting the new one in a very similar manner of going zero-to-one-hundred in the span of .5 seconds (not unlike other releases this year) makes it so that the two are tied in together. In much the same way that Massachusetts-based Abnormality have mastered the art of the frighteningly technical/caveman-stupid branch of death metal, so too does “Monarch Alpha”, an addition to an already vast collection of headspinningly-fast death metal songs.
Arriving just a tiny bit over three years since the group’s previous album, Mechanisms Of Omniscience, Sociopathic Constructs arrives armed with cover artwork that would be perfectly at home gracing a Decrepit Birth cover just as well as it does here, and its thirty-two minutes are another tightly-packed block of death metal, near full to bursting with as much guitar and battering-ram drumming as the band could fit into every track.
Sociopathic Constructs has some very distinct moods, and they’re ones that don’t immediately present themselves. Initial impressions of Sociopathic Constructs worked out a lot like those of Abnormality‘s previous releases: incredibly dense blocks of death metal that fans of the aforementioned frighteningly-technical/rock-stupid songwriting style that such groups as Dying Fetus have made their bread-and-butter will absolutely adore. In fact, for a while it was difficult to make it past the first two songs simply because constant repeats of “Monarch Alpha” and “Penance” were irresistible — especially “Monarch Alpha” for its opening assault and the relentless grinding nature of its slowed-down segments.
“Monarch Alpha” changes tempo violently and multiple times, making it the sort of comfort zone for Abnormality fans to use in easing their way into the group’s newest release. “Penance” found its way into that rotation on the strength of its vocal assault, which has vocalist Malika Sundaramurthy doubling over herself to unleash some black-metal-esque highs — complete with throat-tearing rasp — and some monstrous lows, with nary a breath in between, maintaining a relatively rapid-fire assault for Sociopathic Constructs‘ first few songs.
“Transmogrification Of The Echoborgs”, whose sci-fi word-salad title is among the more interesting to pop up in recent weeks, is a pivot point for Sociopathic Constructs, as the band go on a pretty killer four-song run starting theret, full of violent and head-snapping grooves as well as the surfacing of a prog-death and melodic side. That run, which includes “A Catastrophic and Catalyzing Event”, the fifty-second ambient segue “Aeternum”, “Dying Breed”, and “A Seething Perversion”, creates a surprisingly packed middle section, whose angular songwriting — especially present in “A Seething Perversion”, compared to “Dying Breed”s caveman death metal approach — creates a pretty sharp contrast with the album’s beginning and endpoints.
While the main throughline of most of Sociopathic Constructs is a calculated and near-ceaseless brutality, “Transmogrification” is the first time when you’ll likely find yourself humming along with a main guitar section, especially as the double-bass drum gallop behind it makes for one of the easier headbanging segments on the disc. Its mid-section also includes one of the better (among many on Sociopathic Constructs) just massive and gloriously dumb guitar chugging segments, which leads into the band closing out on one final note of chaos and a loud-as-hell guitar solo.
“Catastrophic and Catalyzing Event” takes a similar approach to its immediate predecessor, though the back two minutes make for a highlight as the song combines its bludgeoning approach with some high-speed drumming to sound massive. “Transmogrification Of The Echoborgs” and “A Catastrophic and Catalyzing Event” are as if one song approached a real hard fork in the road, and that split created these two songs. They share very similar DNA up to about the halfway point, and the differing decisions about whether to lean into a prog-death and melodic approach, or go for a massive dose of brutality, is what led to the genesis of the two.
Album closer and one of Sociopathic Construct‘s lead off singles, “Curb Stomp”, is pure, unbridled rage and makes it so that the album is bookended by brutality with some odd prog-wanderings showing up in between. “Curb Stomp” is one of the few times when something on Sociopathic Constructs fades out, its tracklist brethren preferring to come to a sudden stop in almost mid-forward inertia, or reaching a clear end. Considering that album opener “Monarch Alpha” is a sudden explosion of brutality with no fade-in, “Curb Stomp” fading out makes for a fun bit of coincidental asymmetry.
That closing song itself is possibly the most bread-and-butter Abnormality song on Sociopathic Constructs, alongside its album-opening sibling. It’s a death metal experience that is like being crushed by a falling brick wall. There’s a ton of heft to it and the band throw that weight around with reckless aplomb. It’s an anger that is visceral, and Abnormality are perfectly happy to supply the audio landscape of a beating to back the whole event.
Sociopathic Constructs is the album that will likely cement the reputation of the Abnormality crew as one of the most consistent purveyors of high-speed brutal death metal out there right now. While there have certainly been significant gaps in time between albums (three years between Sociopathic Constructs and its predecessor), it’s clear that the band spend that time really honing their music down so that there is almost no fat on whatever beast they finally release.
There’s plenty of wandering and a train-sized load of different parts spread throughout Sociopathic Constructs, but the rapid delivery and the feeling of being thrown into the maelstrom makes it so that within every song everything seems to belong, with very few moments of “clearly written stop so we can do something completely different”. Every slow and supremely stupid guitar-chug segment, with drummer Jay Blaisdell hammering away at the kit behind it, feels natural within the songs where one appears, and nearly every song on Sociopathic Constructs has one.
The path Abnormality walk on Sociopathic Constructs is a complicated and winding one, with sharp points jutting out from all sides, and a violent one, but it’s a path that for this band is well-worn. The explorative and prog-death moments that appear on the fringes of Sociopathic Constructs keep things interesting, but what you’re likely here for is another audio-bludgeoning, and on that front Sociopathic Constructs will leave you plenty sated.