Though the history of death metal within Buenos Aires, Argentina is steeped in mushy gore and bestial death-thrashing oddities the inception of Prion in 1994 would develop around a clear appreciation for Death‘s ‘Human’ (and later ‘Symbolic’) as a number of line-up changes would see guitarist/vocalist Gregorio Kochian taking full reigns on ‘Corpse Dissection’ (1999), an impressive demo that would rightfully escalate the notoriety of the project beyond local upstarts. As death metal would change drastically over the next several years so would Prion who’d take six long years to land in fully brutal territory with their debut full-length ‘Time of Changes’ (2003). What has always kept this project interesting in my mind since that milestone is their avoidance of complete cliche despite their intensified focus on brutality. Though those first two albums were nearly suffocated by the era-specific approach to drumming, what I consider post-Krisiun beatings, an interest in ‘old school’ and technical death metal was still apparent with each release. The brutal overdriven sound that’d come to define Prion was never more than what I’d consider ‘industry standard’ until the band would release ‘Uncertain Process’ (2015) a twisted, outrageously achieved brutal and technical death metal album that would break up the relentless nature of their style with slower and occasionally thoughtful breaks. This trend of maturation into a timely self continues with their fourth full-length, ‘Aberrant Calamity’, as Prion find increasingly cerebral ways to punch holes in the listeners skull.
Unless you count the ‘Psalmodian Wrath’ (2007) demo ‘Aberrant Calamity’ is Prion‘s first official release without original drummer Marcelo Russo (DestroyTheHumans) and I don’t think it would be offensive to suggest that new drummer Flavio Coscarella (ex-Victimario) has brought in a bit more relaxed multi-tasking ability to Kochian‘s Hate Eternal influenced compositions. Whereas ‘Uncertain Process’ was an anxiety-ridden explosion of riffs with a few satisfying breaks ‘Aberrant Calamity’ takes its time in building sinister groove and otherwordly feeling in alternating harmony with their brutal-tech death aggression. It isn’t so much a head-on rethinking of Prion but rather a detailed reworking of the tightly professional ideas found on the previous album; It is very much a ‘better’ sequel rather than a reboot and surely a new peak in the bands history so far. Vile, Decrepit Birth and Kronos would undergo similar transformation over the course of their careers as they developed a knack for memorable and generally more interesting compositions that didn’t rely on rote brutality or technical excess for interest; I feel it’d make sense to set Prion in with those groups if only for the thoughtful progression of their discography thus far.
‘Aberrant Calamity’ is not lacking in sheer density, though, and I’d be out of line in suggesting it is a lightening of their brutally loaded sound; “Fictitious Form of Stability” roars out of the gates with a Carcariass meets ‘Unholy Cult’ performance marrying a Dolan-esque growl with slippery, technical brutality that builds towards a slapping conclusion that’ll definitely fire up fans of groups like Supreme Pain. The earlier mention of Kronos comes with the second track “Irreversible Ways”, though Immolation and post-2003 Deeds influences are most prominent in the first half of the album, there is an actual musical statement guiding each of the 4-5 minute track. Again, there are several points that feel too closely related to the previous full-length (see: “I Remembered to Breath”) but those moments speak to continuity more than redundancy. Prion have improved in most every aspect in the space of three years and I can hardly complain about the package as a whole: Stellar cover art, polished technical performances, and dynamic production values. The only very subjective gripe I have is with the ‘inhaled’ vocals that pop up here and there, they needed an extra track or something extra to lift the flatness they provide.
For the fellows like me who don’t dabble with modern brutal death metal too often anymore Prion is a rare and inspiring feat, a window into the precision world of brutal technical death metal that doesn’t rely on gimmick or goofy bullshit to gain notice. I figure if you were neck deep in brutal death back when Prion started, as I was, that nostalgia will be lit ceremoniously by the thoughtful quality applied to savage performances within. In terms of recommending ‘Aberrant Calamity’ I’m fully behind it as an experience and especially if you thought they were headed towards greater dynamic pacing with ‘Uncertain Process’. Moderately high recommendation. For preview I’d start with “I Remembered to Breathe” to get right into the fray, then “I’m Jonah, Sacrifice Me” for a second great peak but before you make an judgement check out “The Hesse Paradox” and see if that slight ‘slam’ moment won’t scare you away on the full listen.
Vanishing into dementia. 4.0/5.0
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