Instinctively refreshing, freeing as it is by mechanism of nature, a quick and decidedly wet puke is all the preparation we need to ready ourselves for the easily snatched up and re-digested chunking of Sacramento, California-based death metal trio Abysmalist‘s debut full-length. ‘Vile Possession‘ is for all intents and purposes an almost frustratingly average and largely mid-paced nowadays ‘old school’ influenced death metal album, meat n’ potatoes enough that your innards will take hours of slow-chopping and sloshing away at its ~half hour cycle of simpler early 90’s death metal grooves, hardcorish progressions, and disaffected muddy mumbling ’til the gut of the psyche can resolve any discernable flavor therein. It is the sort of ‘genre entry’ record you’ll want to fill the hours of the day with but, you could probably be better entertained.
The slow and easy riding reveal of “Possession” manages to sound like Abysmalist want to make a big thrashing fuss over the grand opening of ‘Vile Possession‘ yet the song itself communicates only dread, calloused thoughts, and a miserable boredom with its plodding, nearly stumbling pace and very simply crafted riffs. The effect isn’t so much surreal as it is uninspired in terms of performance as we’ve heard groups whip this sort of groovy shit up like a god-damning whirlwind since the early 90’s. That’ll be key context missing for a lot of folks who’ll make a quick love-or-hate judgement on the first impression of this debut — Abysmalist are very much making good on the promising grooves and gore of 90’s Obituary and Jungle Rot per their own hardcore punk, crust, and crossover thrash background which I’d more-or-less detailed in review of their first demo tape ‘Reflections of Horror‘ (2019). The way they’d sold it upon introduction is a taste for “pre-blastbeat” death metal where the groove metal and ex-thrasher skill set figured their way around extreme speed pre-1994 with heavier, bigger, and meaner songs yet I’d say the element missing here is the killer app, yes… the riffs.
“The Redeemer” aims directly for this goal of a Bolt Thrower-esque feeling and a solid, simple groove to take a ride on yet this is easily the least impressive piece on the album to start right down to the halfway there divebombs which fire off with a frequency throughout. In a total vacuum of absolute objectivity and no consideration for the legions of bands that’re attempting this style today, sure they’ve put a mild spin a cool groove with this song but when we start considering the road-burning leaders in the style today such as Genocide Pact and Creeping Death we’re a rung lower in already fairly rote musical language herein. With that said “Euthanasian Benediction” gets it way, way more right in putting a nastier double-bass kicked twist and a few pitch-shifted growls into the mix, making sure they get just weird enough to stick in mind as the record pushes on through its first half. Much as I appreciate Abysmalist easing into the full run of the record I’d definitely expected something far more impressive or, even just catchier up front considering the ideas foaming about their demo tape.
Thankfully these folks found their groove and hold onto it with “Therapeutic Exhumation”, arguably the most interesting sub-genre mushing moment of the full listen as they drop a sluggin’ n’ thuggin’ beatdown starting around ~2:34 minutes into the song, going full ape with it and keeping the momentum up well enough beyond, it isn’t exactly Xibalba level pro-chunking at this point but I’d appreciated the alt-metal chords jangling out the outro as the song finished weaving through its groove. It is the first proper suggestion on ‘Vile Possession‘ that they’ve got some ambitious ideas stacking up in their future even if this debut is pretty much all pretty mild clobbering. Just as I’d suggested back in 2019 the death/doom metal side of this band is worth nurturing if they can pull off a few riffs that stick rather than just rumble, the gloom of “Deeper Wounds” being the payoff and the final strong point on the full listen. Sure, the riffs are dried up by the time “The Change” buzzes off but Abysmalist show some sparks of cleverness and charm here on their probably too early in their gig longplayer.
If you’re up for a pretty standard, easy-rolling death metal set that hits the half hour mark and fucks off, this is an alright, just barely above average choice for 2022. They’ve managed a pretty solid gig here between the sharp album artwork and the fine production values (ah via Audiosiege) but whether or not the material is up to snuff is ultimately up to you. Though some of what I’ve thrown out there will come across harsh it was only because I’d felt they’d stretched an EP’s worth of ideas a bit too far here and the conviction of performance just didn’t manifest overall (vocals are great, though), I still see tons of potential in Abysmalist‘s treatment of this sound in the future. A moderately high recommendation.
|RELEASE DATE:||April 8th, 2022|
Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:
Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.