“18 minutes of eldritch lurch ‘n’ crunch“. Sometimes it’s hard to improve on a good publicist’s summing-up, and in few words that is indeed a very good description of the “crushing ruminations” (another stolen phrase) displayed across the four tracks of Abysmalist’s debut demo, Reflections of Horror. A solemn and shivering bow must also be aimed in the direction of Abysmalist for their selection of a title for the demo, because electrifying horrors live and breathe within its supernatural confines.
Formed by two veterans of the Bay Area crust and hardcore underground, Abysmalist indulge their affections for Bolt Thrower, Obituary, and other “pre-blastbeat death metal” from the early ’90s (one more stolen phrase), as well as an attraction to such authors as Clive Barker and Patrick Süskind, whose works provided lyrical inspiration. And like authors such as those, the eerie reverberations and ghastly vocals in their music send chills down the spine even as the band pound and eviscerate or drag us through dank crypts like rotten but still breathing corpses.
This abominable enterprise is the work of Federico Davila (who has played in Unurnment, Primal Rite, Permanent Ruin, and DeadEyedStare, among others) and Jeremy Meier (from Cøndition, Sanctum, Primal Rite, Scalped, Yadokai, Ritual Control, Effluxus, and more). They’re now based in Sacramento, but the heat of those environs has had no effect on their ability to freeze the blood with their sound.
There’s enough murk in the music to transport your mind into dripping catacombs, and the gruesome gutturals are equally subterranean. Heavy, roiling chords, deep bass thrums, and booming drum strikes pitch us headlong into “Lascivious Rapture” before the drums begin to gallop and those cavernous roars come in. The riffing turns cold and cruel in its skittering, buzzing mania, but the pace also slows, the guitar blaring, the vocals becoming a caustic shriek, the drummer meting out pounding blows and bursts of pummeling savagery. Those alternate vocals pair up in a ghastly duet, and spectral guitar frequencies create an eerie miasma of brain-twisting sound, and also peal like supernatural bells.
Other dimensions of Abysmalist’s macabre imagination come to the fore in “Black Lacquer“. The music lurches and staggers, and the fretwork oozes disease and rot. It’s a morbid, sickening feeling. But in the same track this duo prove themselves just as capable of clobbering the bejusus out of us, and of mounting vicious juggernaut assaults. There are also haunting reverberations here that ring out with a wailing spectral sheen, as well as a solo that sounds like demonic ecstasy.
Still more dimensions of sound surface in “The Engineer“. Dispensing with the drums, Abysmalist enfold us in the haunting sounds of rain and astral wind, of spooky guitar vibrations and moody bass tones. The volume swells in a wash of gritty sound, and the true heart of the track reveals itself in a slow, quavering and wailing solo that’s both psychedelic and bluesy (and one of the best moments in a demo that’s full of fine moments). The sound builds to a cacophony and flows right into “Chain Ripper“.
A mammoth stomp near the outset of that track becomes a furious, thrashing bonfire of flickering riffs and bounding rhythms, which leads into a big head-hammering chugfest, followed by a morbid, groaning crawl laced with those ghastly dual-vocal expulsions. That might have been an effective way to end things, but the band instead chose (and it was a good choice) to push the energy to an increasingly more maniacal frenzy, bringing the EP to a close in a crescendo of violence.
This really is a very impressive demo, and hopefully a sign of more to come from Abysmalist. It will be released on tape by Caligari Records on August 23rd. Place your orders now, you fiends!