ABYSSIC – Brought Forth in Iniquity (2022)REVIEW

The third cinematically charged funereal symphony from Norwegian progressive black/doom metal quintet Abyssic technically reigns it in a bit, refocusing the role of the orchestra within the enormous imagined space of performance to a co-leadership role. ‘Brought Forth in Iniquity‘ is no less of a ‘classical’ music inspired application to stylized extreme metal voicing but this time around all elements work together in uneasy harmony of bludgeoning wrath, sorrowful miasma and tragically melodramatic panning array and contribute to a heavier, more focused spin. The great achievement here is that despite the proposed repositioning and adaptation involved they’ve only gained profundity herein and certainly not lost their knack for the outsized and entertaining bombast which has long been their signature.

The band we know as Abyssic today officially formed in 2012 between vocalist/contrabassist Memnock (Susperia) and keyboardist/composer André Aaslie who’d been an integral part of the band Gromth the year previous. Guitarist Elvorn, also of Suspiria, would soon join and a host of other musicians have contributed over the years. Though the songwriting approach of these three key members has been the core contribution to their sound for their three albums thus far, credit due to the multi-talented Asgeir Mickelson (Spiral Architect, ex-Borknagar) for his considerable work on their debut LP (‘A Winter’s Tale‘, 2016) ensuring this project was a strong and beautifully formed phenomenon right out of the gate, enough of an outrageous statement that it seems they’ve had to do their best to pare it down in the course of tempering the two albums since. That original sound, which ultimately hasn’t changed much, is a blend of funeral death/doom metal’s moderne romanticist standards for voluminous atmospheric instrumentation (read: “symphonic”) alongside influences from black metal and progressive metal. They’d began to peer through the deathly veil on their second album (‘High the Memory‘, 2019) a bit more often and now ‘Brought Forth in Iniquity‘ manifests its blackened elements most clearly. It is an easy sound to understand and recognize yet a difficult one to categorize in statement, somewhere between symphonic black metal and progressive extreme doom we find a reasonable vector.

Though the mind should rightfully scramble for reference unless you are fond of “symphonic” metal, meaningful textural comparisons could be made with the more outrageous spectrum of Finnish funeral doom metal, such as the sweeping melodrama of Colosseum (Finland), the wrathful sway of Shape of Despair and the directorial aspects of Skepticism (the vocals conditionally apply here) to some degree but all of this occurs on an immense scale, loud as hell in an enormous space and certainly at a much faster speed as we meet Abyssic within the eye of their own storm. We could perhaps look to the keyboard heavy lean of countless melodic/gothic death/doom metal bands in the 2000’s, such as Forest Stream per a random example, but we begin to move too far away from the fiery violence of extreme metal, black metal and progressive black metal in particular, when doing so. Likewise the feature of mellotron, moog and such color these works with something finer, something a bit less typical and imitative at a glance while the sheer imposing presence of the simulated orchestra here is nigh overwhelming in approach of this album and discography as a whole.

It is worth pointing out that Abyssic‘s music is symphonic in the sense that the perceived ensemble generally resembles a symphony orchestra alongside an extreme metal quintet including percussion, brass, and stringed instruments but without any major feature of woodwinds. The emulation of the orchestra in their music has been more heavily modulated per the demands of extreme metal guitar and drum presence for this third album, resulting in a much heavier and rhythm-rooted voice that’ll catch the extreme doom metal ear a bit easier by comparison. As a huge Skepticism fan the vocals are close enough that I’d felt immediately comfortable in this realm but, perhaps the rhythms have a similarly classicist sentimentality to their lilt just as well. Whereas previous recordings allowed the piano and various cohesively aligned bowed instruments complete domination of the mix for a “soundtrack”-esque feeling ‘Brought Forth in Iniquity‘ gives the rhythm section slightly more room to breathe, allowing some additional blustering emphasis from the brass instruments but not enough to swallow the waves of overdrive and deeper cadence of the vocals. Most of these elements threaten to overrule the extreme metal band beneath the imposing resonance of Aaslie‘s work but, this is still the desired dynamic of their craft, a bit of a battle on stage as a signature. I’d only wish the contrabass were more easily distinguished, the acoustics of the instrument impossible to register within such maximal feats, though it seems to characterize the live setting in a dramatic way.

One of the main reasons I did not write anything too in-depth about ‘High the Memory‘ back in 2019 has been resolved in good form here in 2022, namely they’ve better considered what they could do with pacing beyond funeral doom metal sloth while still representing that specific melodramatic profundity and to the order of a few symphonic black metallic highs within which greatly add to the spectacle and drive of the full listen. This helps to pull the ear into their haunting, obsessed brand of macabre symphony with plenty more blasphemic turns and diabolic rushes. Opener “Cold as Winter Storm” gets us there quickly, engaging a choppier mid-paced groove as a strong point of tact, intensifying at the peak of the middle third of the song. A fine example of greater impact within shorter pieces and in considerable contrast to past works; As you might recall each of the first two records were ~80 minutes long yet this one is a perfectly set 50 minutes, offering a similarly meticulous and impactful arc within a far more manageable session. It is also worth noting that the album lands upon far fewer clashing points of concentration within the orchestrations, which wasn’t such a detractor on previous records but this time around the band have focused their stream of consciousness as a conductor would. If you’d like the most recent Midnight Odyssey record you’ll understand the shared purpose of quite a large ensemble working together in both an atmospheric and directive sense. The ~18.5 minute title track and closer ultimately showcases all of these finer points and observations in practicum though there is still plenty to glean from steeping with the other three or four pieces which precede it.

The most consistent effect of sitting with this record is eerie dramatism, striking as it catches the ear with an unsettling sort of momentum and, much like the previous album, there is still a convoluted enough thread which challenges the listener to follow along rather than present cleanly readable phrases (dependent on your attention span, of course). This does change when listened to piecemeal, but I don’t think it makes sense to approach a recording in this style and with such unique diction without preparing to absorb the whole thing. “Chronicle of the Dead” follows “Cold as Winter Storm” with intentional airs about it, building upon the morbid arc of tragedian doom metal riffs for its first ~three minutes ’til hitting a piano break and a burly death metal section where the riff follows the double bass drum pattern in a plain way. This is perhaps the point where the implied style of death metal is here in some sense of funeral death/doom’s dramatic rhythmic shaping yet it probably shouldn’t be considered a primary genre signifier. A long-winded way of saying I don’t feel like the album has “riffs” in the performative sense, but interesting threads of rhythmic phrase which are entertaining.

Demanding as a fifty minute sitting is, Abyssic do not impose dead air or meandering lightness herein. The ever-active and imposing sound design is memorable in presence and the action of it is captivating enough though the songs aren’t written in a way which necessarily sticks in mind beyond spectacle. A lot of this album will nonetheless feel as if the pianist has been given free will to dominate the conversation. “Mirror of Sorrow” is a fine example of their core idea at its best with an emulated horn section providing extra cinematic flair when mixed in with ethereal chorales for a brilliantly dramatic, forceful presence in introduction. In general the string section collides/clashes less in layer than on previous recordings for these sorts of pieces, implying the presence of an orchestra which moves as a unit with the staggered melodic death/doom metal rhythms. Though they’ve not generated a hollowly mystic cathedralesque feeling within this song the piece has cinematic, zoomed out battleground implications despite its maudlin title. I’m not always sure what I should be visualizing as I hit this part of the album but there is no doubt that we’re in the thick of some great downturn. Fans of symphonic black metal should appreciate the bridge between that world and the sort of progressive doom metal ebb of “Djevelens Lys”, a piece which most masterfully includes the piano driven aspect of the mid-chapter of the album, revving up into a steadier kick and eventually whipping at a brief darker blackened pulse. At this point in the full listen I am beyond yearning for a different texture, voicing, anything beyond the overstated long-form stretch of these 7-10 minute pieces but there is little reprieve as the cumulative statement of the closer reshapes and restates the tale in extended phrase.

Conveying the stymying effect of listening to ‘Brought Forth in Iniquity‘ doesn’t necessarily require as many words but the right audience for this type of music probably won’t mind, much of it is elaborate for the sake of a grand vision which even when pared down from previous works still manages to run-on. Fandom of film scores, extreme doom metal, symphonic prog, and progressive black metal will be practically required on approach but reading between the lines reveals a novel admixture of extreme metal sub-genre sound design applied to modern classical music/cinematic score sized ideas which now translate best to a quintet ensemble. In this sense Abyssic have translated their involved musical language to the oft impatient extreme metal audience ear without losing the key details and grand, ambitious feeling. It’d be a bit much to suggest this third album is their best album, there is great continuity between each and too-direct comparative valuation would be needling a bit, but this’ll be the one to likely catch the ear of folks whose Venn diagram covers both symphonic black metal and funeral death/doom metal with equal enthusiasm. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (76/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Brought Forth in Iniquity
LABEL(S):Osmose Productions
RELEASE DATE:October 28th, 2022

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