BEYOND MORTAL DREAMS – Abomination of the Flames (2022)REVIEW

We’ve arrived in Hell and could surely rest here comfortably, folks. Set up camp, enjoy a bit of damnation amongst the other plebs, get a feel for the terrain and whatnot… yet with the right tools we can in fact, go much deeper. With a bit of ingenious whirling of long-developed skills and some serious attention paid to detail the usual mental vacation to Tartarus could transcend in the right hands, and I’d make the argument herein that one the most capable whirlers of cosmic portals beyond the usual crags-and-flames is perhaps Australian death metal quartet Beyond Mortal Dreams who’ve arisen from shadowy development to stymie and mystify the errant general public with a veritable constellation of brutal, technical, tuneful and bestially raring death metal craft. ‘Abomination of the Flames‘ may be their second album in an aeon yet its well-prepared voice is the skull clobbering check that nowadays death metal sorely begs for as a fumbling, trendy hobby for untalented, twiddling all-thumbs goons. Mere witness of these feats will ruin said lives, and give much needed nourishment for those of us old and ragged enough to remember when highest standards made death metal an imposing, fearsome calling deserving of crystalline envision and bravest action.

Having formed in Adelaide, Australia in 1995 by guitarist/vocalist Pahl “Doomsayer” Hodgson after a false start with another group, Beyond Mortal Dreams have held fast since as a band well-aided by the high standards of classic death metal without becoming stuck in the past. Their output, ‘Abomination of the Flames‘ included, is strongly representative of a natural evolution of death metal forms unto the brutality of the post-millennium, that is to say that they are of the ilk to appreciate the technical pathways popularized by groups like Nile and Hate Eternal beyond the late 90’s as the mechanics of death metal performance and production values reached absurdly competitive highs. Their proverbial roots in classicist death are still deepest ingrained in the nearby atmospheric and technical innovations of Morbid Angel and Immolation of a certain era, a feature which has always set them alongside experiential, perhaps more substantive ‘underground’ groups like Mithras, Centurian, Dead Congregation and (earlier) Exmortem whom likewise advanced the possibilities of the artform without bartering trend nor trash into their realm. This thought is decently reinforced by their earliest material post-reformation circa 2003 or so starting with the blown-out blasted scourge of ‘Promo 2004‘ (2004) and the increasingly knotted riffcraft of their second demo (‘The Demon and the Tree of the Dead‘, 2006). It was clear they’d struck upon a full-length worthy sound at that point and ‘From Hell‘ (2008) is where the listener strikes gold, at least if they’d managed a copy of the self-released record back in the day.

Though there was plenty of notable death metal out of Australia in the late 2000’s ‘From Hell‘ was a record that’d definitely long deserved its outing as an outright killer when it was recently reissued, wherein the addition of Jamie “Bloodspawn” Whyte on second guitar on that second public demo (if I recall correctly) had coincided with the band finding what I’d consider their own sound, a deathly atmospheric yet considerably technical feat which read as “modern” in the best sense of the word. They’d notably find some additional distinction by way of some Nocturnus-esque influences, which’d present in the form of well-set keyboards and shred-worthy leads (see: “Desolation Hymn”) and delivered all of this with the intensity of the aforementioned modernity of the era, upping the ante a few years later on their ‘Dreaming Death‘ (2012) EP and the last gasp of ‘Lamia‘ (2014) 7″ EP. They were on a roll for my own taste, had found the right line-up and all that, but stewed on the path forward while taking on various other fine projects (Oath of Damnation, Johnny Touch, etc.) for the remainder of the decade. Taking their time in steering their priorities towards something new yet recognizable has paid off as Beyond Mortal Dreams step upon the portal herein, their sound now balanced between shred-heavy vertigo, keyboard/synth aggrandized moments, and soul-flaying bestial death terror. It doesn’t sound like they’ve dragged themselves back into their auld alignment after a vacation but rather taken a minute to incept a most explosive attack upon the possibilities opened on the path beyond ‘Dreaming Death‘.

Opener and title track “Abomination of the Flames” makes the major artist-to-fan statement of ‘Abomination of the Flames‘ up front, well, beyond the din of its ‘Hell Awaits‘-style intro — showing us where they’ve poured their efforts in the interim and where their journey through death metal has rubbed off on ’em most these last several decades. The already indoctrinated are the crowd are rightfully considered first on these terms, they whom already appreciate Beyond Mortal Dreams‘ fine balance of over the top shred capable brutality and technical aggression in service to songs written with morbid, nigh cinematic purpose will find no lacking comparison to the stylistic tradition of past releases. Not only have they impaled me with the notion that ‘From Hell‘ wasn’t a fluke but they’ve landed an even bigger scud hit off the bat. The first three songs on the album reinforce this notion that we are getting a higher evolution of pure death metal in song and riff alike; They’ve set this block of shorter (~4-5 minute) pieces up front with some of the better rhythm guitar moments on the record rightfully on display, the dizzying lava-sorceled highs on the rush of “Hell of Eternal Death” presenting an early highlight before “Deficit in Flesh” reminds us of their knack for surreal brutality. The lead into fizzling sci-fi synth around ~1:55 minutes in is notable here as foreshadowing for the sort of left-hand turn the record will soon take. It is immediately the sort of record that’ll lock folks in for the ride after just a couple of songs, no letting up for air and no prancing about with it.

Though these pieces do resemble a proper discography entry in terms of the greater style of Beyond Mortal Dreams carrying over some strong precedence in their production values and their approach to composition they’ve not devolved, stagnated or lost their edge for the sake of recreating old magick in the meantime, instead building upon their best traits. At this point the listener has noticed a more varied vocal style, less gutturally prominent to some degree and set just to the point of intelligibility here. The trade-off for this is perhaps some sink in suffocating brutality for the sake of expression and this is certainly a bit of oxygen pulled from a realm with spare room to whirl new ideas into. The most adventurous parts of the album aren’t buried or belittled in the running order, making their case on obvious terms. Case in point being the quartet’s stabs into classic progressive death metal influenced territory with use of certain vocoder-esque space-cased vocal effects on “They Are Seven“, the major hinge piece on the album which’d taken the full listen somewhere entirely unexpected and, well, very fuckin’ good amidst an already imposing barrage of notable technical feats. The sort of theatric technical daemonic space operatic pulse of the album reaches its peak on “Misanthrope Messiah”, resuscitating the best of mid-2000’s death metal rhythm guitar standards and carrying that sentiment into the reveal of a great, broken-jawed maw of Hell as they dart between technical riffs and wailing leads. Whyte‘s shred on pieces like this comes in service to the experience of the song, notes which are placed rather than squashed and strangled in vague spurts over rhythms, and in this way the prowess of the musicians involved impresses with its cohesion rather than any uncertain reliance on wily gimmicks.

By setting a series of shorter, hairier pieces up front Beyond Mortal Dreams reinforce their point of view before tearing into the complete expanse of their evolution in longer ~7 minute pieces on the second half. This meant the full listen presented as a brilliantly set tunnel, widening in vision as it progressed into a much darker realm of unexpected horrors and murderous feats. From my own experience this was the exact sort of record that’d had me staring off into space and drooling as a death metal obsessed teenager and well, I’ve not evolved nearly as much as the artist has in the years since but there is some parity in the suggested notion that this music is delivered with such spectacle and daemonic intent behind its attack that it feels like an entirely new beast to gawk and conquer the mind with. I’d been stunned by the evolution of the band from the first listen and found the overall package here well worth sitting with for hours on end, both for its excessive force-pushing rhythms and technical feats but also just for the sake of enjoying the pyroclastic atmosphere ‘Abomination of the Flames‘ exudes. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Abomination of the Flames
LABEL(S):Lavadome Productions
RELEASE DATE:April 15th, 2022

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