Waking from an unconscious state, the senses blurred from a round of eye-popping strangulation on the city streets, we awake in a warehouse dumpster smelling of sulphur and human shit. The puke is all slime, as if we’d been deep-throating a bucket of slugs, and in reaching to wipe the chin only the ghostly pang of elbow pain swipes at the air. Severed, splattered with mucosal spew, and… turning the eye towards the light reveals a barrel’s tipped edge and a broken dam’s deluge of suffocating hydrochloric death. Roughly sewn limbs fray open, burning clean the wound and liquefying the flesh; Shock hits fast but death brews slow ’til the second barrel sloshes overhead. To be tortured, mutilated, burned of human meat, and soon melted down to bubbling putridity is the most eventful and nigh erotic feast of mayhem one could hope for. This, in sharp contrast with the inevitably bland death life will offer the lot of us: High blood pressure, boredom, death camps, public shootings… Ah, true enough, these are far more brutal times than in recent memory yet… A good round of murderous cruelty is still the right stuff for those of us who’d grown up on the corpse-melting, skin-wearing, knife-squatting bloodspray of 90’s death metal. ‘Reflections of Horror’, the first demo tape from Sacramento, California death duo Abysmalist aren’t so stuck in the past but they do have a concerted understanding of the right groove that’d sustained many ‘classic’ death metal metal bands well into the mid-to-late 90’s.
As many die-hard death metal heads out there figure out what made Autopsy such a special thing in the late 80’s very few modern day death metal acts show any enlightened understanding of what made Obituary equally vital in their earliest stages. I would say that what Abysmalist do on ‘Reflections of Horror’ is a few generations more advanced than the already dynamic ‘Cause of Death’ but a thick strand of that DNA is expressed throughout this demo to wildly effective results. The intro to “Chain Ripper” is a most complete example of this powerful Florida death metal hit but there are several other influencing factors here so, don’t dive in thinking you’re getting a dire clone. In fact both of these guys are members of Primal Rite with extensive histories in the Bay Area crust and hardcore scenes of the last few decades (Sanctum, Scalped, Detonize) and this is clearly felt in some of the more aggressive/transitional moments of ‘Reflections of Horror’ so, if you’re scared of some thrashing hardcore influenced riffs… maybe you’ve misunderstood the origins of death metal to begin with?
The big dick here is the opener “Lascivious Rapture” which drops into a big moshable ‘World Demise’ riff to start that death-thrashes out in waves recalling the first Jungle Rot record with a major groove that hits around the two minute mark. The first time I heard this song I think I’d gotten up to pee, had a moment where I was kinda air-guitaring to that riff while I peed. Most everything about Abysmalist‘s demo clicked into place for me, memorable grooves, thrash n’ doom antics, and gluey atmospheric sections (“Black Lacquer”) that could eventually translate into some sludgier Tar Pit kinda stuff. These songs have immense potential and though it is a first step for the band they’ve already figured out a remarkable ‘sweet spot’ for high impact riffs through thoughtful variation. It only remains to be seen how many more tricks they’ve got up their sleeve before the meat ‘n potatoes descriptor starts to get flung around. Highly recommended. For preview purposes I’d pretty much suggest starting anywhere but the biggest rush I’d get from this tape is the duo of (instrumental) “The Engineer” with aptly titled “Chain Ripper”.
Dragged into darkness... 4.0/5.0
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