Tear open the cursed virginal womb and snap the silver skin of the linea alba aside with your dagger-like fist. Plunge as if thy hand a spear of misanthropic blasphemy thrown hatefully within the unknowing vessel’s natal girth and yank the gestating corpse of the Christ from its parasitic suction upon the belly of this concubine of ‘God’. Snap the neck and boot its spine to the ceiling and burn the… Ah, yep, listening to war metal again. The bloodied roots of this particular black/death metal band trail back to the mid-2000’s in Birmingham, Alabama area where Meathole Infection would conjoin a trio at birth and then dissect itself into two Dark Descent alumnus halves: Ectovoid and Grave Ritual. Abysmal Lord would form by way of Grave Ritual members in between their two atmospheric death metal releases (circa roughly 2012) after some line-up changes and a relocation of key members to New Orleans, Louisiana where the band is based today. Their focus has been upon bestial black metal from conception in creation of truly atomic and brutally relentless war metal from the Blasphemy school of bounding electric aggression. ‘Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal’ is the second full-length within their storm of blasphemic overdriven tyranny yet, it arrives with such force and determination that it may be the strongest hit of bestial blood magick to cross my desk thus far this year.
War metal is all trash, right? Random chuggy ‘n primitive punk-ass noise that blasts incoherence and comes with a riffless and superficial bout of nonsense ~20 minutes at a time. It wasn’t always such an overwrought nightmare of riffless howling nuclear fuckery, though, and beyond that I’d say if you just take it upon yourself to be selective about songwriting, guitar work, and performances you’ll find great things release on a regular schedule. The consensus among longtime fandom this decade is that war metal has become a popular past-time among noncommittal side-project hungered musicians looking to blow off steam and plow a ‘lil Christ skull on their free time. There is certainly no harm done from the outside looking in but it does make it difficult to find work that is exemplar, or at least idealistic enough to bring what it takes to stand out among the safe and plain rumblings of the masses. Classic war metal (or bestial black metal, if you will) writes effective and succinct songs, not loosely beaten shapes — The guitar work should be composed, percussive, and representative of primitive black and death metal standards of riffcraft circa the late 80’s. Above all else hatred, unfaltering nihilism and aggressive blasphemy should be employed to an utmost extreme that matches the virility of the performances. Still way off? At the very least I know when the good stuff lands in my lap and this time around it is Abysmal Lord‘s second full-length where they possess and deploy all of these traits across each of the brutally achieved 35 minutes of ‘Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal’.
Although I’d suggested that this band comes from the Blasphemy school of black/death metal I’d say the general split of ideas leans towards ‘Gods of War’ but there are closer comparisons to be made beyond that impetus. The buzzing hallucinogenic dirge of Proclamation‘s ‘Messiah of Darkness and Impurity’ is an exacting match in terms of distorted bass and scorched guitar tone; If nothing else you should hear that same cyclical rhythmic pulse that comes with a differently frayed lead guitar work that recalls the pick-scraped and wailing of early Diocletian. Sounds pretty much run-of-the-mill so far, I’m sure, but beyond my admiration for Proclamation‘s discography the appeal here comes from the rabidity of the vocal performances and a focus on memorable bursts of rhythm. These traits aurally align Abysmal Lord with nearby collaborators and conspirators in Caveman Cult and Crurifragium but takes that slapping attack and makes every hit count more than the last as the ‘Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal’ plays. Yes, it is pure savagery and at a mayhemic pulse as per genre standards but there is a greater all-seeing eye set upon Abysmal Lord‘s actions that guides with a mind for intentioned pacing and rapacious atmosphere.
The challenge of breaking through the stigma of war metal as a ‘bland’ or orthodoxy obsessed sub-genre of black metal is that the true basis for the music is that it is a ‘take it or leave it’ mentality, the sort of music that never gave a fuck what you think. Hell, they’re out to fuck you up and destroy you with every blasted-out note. It is the sort of thing that many take as an acquired taste and some absolutely need it as serious life’s blood for the deranged. Why explain my own thoughts on the sub-genre here, then? Abysmal Lord have put together what I’d consider one of the more exemplar pieces of war metal that is succinct enough to be ‘understood’ but substantial in character enough that it doesn’t fall victim to the tiresome mainstreaming of bestial metal. Cult but anyone can join, essentially. The riffs are ultimately where the cult is established and the first piece on this record that hits hard is “Races of Jehovah’s Despair” where creeping tremolo grinds up against diabolically aggressive riffs; Beyond that point the title track, “Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal”, takes that song structure and pounds out a doubly heavy set of those mid-paced riffs that again grind between death metal meandering and hard-charging bursts of grinding black metal fury.
Once you’ve sat with Abysmal Lord‘s sound long enough the riffcraft, aggressive tones, and double-edged attack of their variable pacing all become familiar pieces with increasingly frantic and brutal whole. After some fifteen or so listens I found myself starting to become eager to hit Side B because it kicks in so hard and amplifies the approach of the first half making for a truly incredible second half. “Nuclear Absolution”, “Holy Incest” and the massive “Scourge of Christ” bring the biggest riffs and the most ruinous speed to the point where it really does feel like they’re physically hitting harder than before. It may all be visceral and calamitous insanity but goddamn is this a fine example of -that- sort of thing. Highly recommended. For preview purposes I’d suggest the title track and “Nuclear Absolution” for the absolute best introduction to the record but do not miss out on “Scourge of Christ”.
Put to rest the king of rats. 4.0/5.0
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