It’s not as if we didn’t already know that the Australian project Snorlax (the solo work of Brendan Auld) was capable of making music that causes listeners stop suddenly in their racing tracks, and leaves them feeling kind of gob-smacked. Especially on the band’s debut album II, that became vividly evident. But still, the band’s new album The Necrotrophic Abyss is astonishing, and we’re lucky to get to premiere it today.
Here, the band’s evolving unification of black and death metal has reached full fruition, flowering into compositions that are bludgeoning, violent, and bewildering, elaborate in their constant permutations but both viscerally frightening and soul-crushing in their renditions of desperation and downfall — and all of it executed with jaw-dropping technical skill and captured with remarkable production quality.
On this album, to put it more succinctly, the unexpected becomes expected, and the result is a compact record that stands well out from the pack as we near the halfway point of 2023. It’s not the kind of thing you hear once and move on from. It’s the kind of thing that’s like your own personal Pandora’s box, waiting to be opened again and again, to witness with stark fascination its manifold evils fly into the world over and over.
The Necrotrophic Abyss does have a unifying story line, though its not directly based on that Greek legend. It’s described this way:
This album is presented as a concept, with an overarching lyrical story that flows throughout, each song a chapter depicting a world so vile its own death is forced by the hands of nature. In the second half of the record Brendan introduces some new voices and layers of collaboration as the planet is laid to waste for eons resulting in a desolate baron abyss only creatures of the undead have a chance of surviving. The album closes with a slight glimpse of hope as the story eludes to an unlikely rebirth of evolution and a potentially inhabitable future after all.
Snorlax gets busy narrating this scary tale without prelude, launching the opener “Reawakened” in a fusillade of pummeling drums, hurtling bass, and blazing tremolo’d riffage that rises in madness and falls in despair. Bestial gutturals and flesh-flensing screams add to the song’s already startling and searing intensity, though Snorlax also segments the ravishing attack with episodes of tumbling, clobbering percussion, brazen chords that go sky-high, and others that ring like bells made of desolating agony.
“Reawakened” is an eye-popping first strike, and it’s no wonder that Snorlax chose it as the lead track, but the wonders don’t stop there. The follow-on song “Disillusion” is more bewildering in its strange and sudden twists. The tempos change sharply and relentlessly, and the discordant ring of the guitars creates morphing moods of delirium, dementia, confusion, and misery. The experience is elaborate, to the point of becoming labyrinthine, but all the twists and turns are exhilarating precisely because of that, and the roller-coaster drum and bass maneuvers still hit as hard as a heavyweight slugger.
And so those first two tracks provide an attention-grabbing one-two punch — an assaulting sonic bonfire followed by a real mind-bender, both of which are electrifying (and unnerving) in different ways. It’s enough to leave a person wondering what the hell will come next.
Maybe it won’t be surprising to learn (especially since we’ve already said so) that the following six songs continue inscribing a map that’s full of unexpected twists and turns, from the ominous, sinister, and agony-saturated strains of “Forti cation“, which sounds like a mind being torn apart at the seams by some supernatural power, to the cold and deranged serial-killer cruelty of “Book Ov Serpents” and the crushing desolation, boiling madness, and jackhammering jolts of “Eternal Decrepitude” — one of the album’s two longest tracks and a clear stand-out, even in an album that has no weak links.
The ruthless, pummeling and brutalizing heaviness of the music is an ever-present feature (coupled with eruptions of hyper-fast blasting and jaw-dropping drum acrobatics), and so too are the piercing tones of the constantly mutating guitars, which seem like a hybrid of whirring razors and warped chimes, and the monstrous malignancy and unhinged fury of the vocals.
Those are features of all three remaining songs, including the brutish but bamboozling title track, which seems to conjoin trauma-inducing calamity and the mind-fracturing pain it produces, as well as the short sharp shock of “Regenesis“, which comes across as an abrasive roiling mass of disturbing chaos in the midst of an earthquake, or a megaton bombing campaign.
Snorlax ends the album with its longest track, “The Bastard Seed Of Terraformation“. “Eternal Decrepitude” already demonstrated what Snorlax is capable of doing when allowing the music more time to twist and turn, and that happens again with this closer, which proves to be a fascinating kaleidoscope of horrors.
At times, it encapsulates hopeless misery, but does so with perversely mesmerizing guitar dis-harmonies, and at others the needling riffage, berserk percussion, and asylum-quality vocals feel like the world is burning in a frightening final catastrophe — which makes the poignant, grief-stricken violin finale even more startling.
The Necrotrophic Abyss will be released on June 23rd by Unorthodox Emanations, the Death Metal imprint of Avantgarde Music, on Digi-CD and LP vinyl formats. It’s also available in Australia and New Zealand from Brilliant Emperor Records. Pre-orders are available now: