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Tuesday 23 February 2021

Reviews: Abiotic, Heave Blood And Die, Dawnbringer, Serenity In Murder (Reviews By Liam True, Paul Scoble & Matt Bladen)

Abiotic - Ikigai (The Artisan Era) [Liam True]

There’s a small number of Japanese and Japanese influenced Technical/Progressive/Melodic Death Metal bands or albums out there, but now we can add Abiotic’ third full length, Ikigai, to the list. A band renowned for mixing brutality with intricacy and technical brilliance, they make sure to establish the theme of the album from the first notes of the instrumental Natsukashii, in which the Eastern melodies and traditional instruments pay homage to the Japanese culture Abiotic are drawing from. Much of this influence is most visible during the softer or clean parts, such as the brooding keyboards on the title track. There are hints of melody in the riffs as well, but not of a particular Eastern character, just of a Death Metal one. Abiotic still loves their brutal slamming riffs punctuated by ripping blast beats, as heard on Covered The Cold Earth. The mix of sheer brutality and melodic moments is more or less evenly balanced, however, with multiple lead breaks and the odd jumpy Technical Death Metal riff here and there.

My personal favourite tracks on the album are those where the band skews heavily towards the technical rather than the brutal side of Death Metal, like Smoldered. There are so many floating, snaking, and leaping riffs that throw curveballs at the listener and fade back into the fabric of the song. Of course there are still blast beats and deep, cavernous vocals, but the jagged beauty of these riffs set against this backdrop defines perfect Death Metal for me. This kind of riffing always feels more exciting than constant chugging, as in the frenetic tapped arpeggios on The Wrath. It’s one of those rare times when a riff or a moment makes you stop and rewind to make sure you heard that right. Another great example is Souvenir Of Skin, even though it starts harsh and pummelling, that ferocity is soon channelled into acrobatic, melodic riffs cobbled together into a maelstrom of musical excellence. The lead and the sweep picking section are particularly good examples of this.

Abiotic goes hard when they need to, bringing stomping, overwhelming force to bear on tracks like If I Do Die, which apart from the slight keyboard interlude, rests on a foundation of marching, machine-gun blast beats from beginning to end. Her Opus Mangled is also a battering ram heralded by thunderous drumming and howling, demented vocals. And like I said earlier, the band’s Japanese concept shines through predominantly during the clean sections; the only hint of something Eastern on Her Opus Mangled came during the soft interlude. The riffs, the drumming, and the lead work are all Death Metal in the absolute. That is not a bad thing since it is unquestionably well-written Death Metal, but I am curious to hear a band weave Japanese melody into aggressive metal riffing, the way Ensiferum or Suidakra do for their respective cultures.

I think Abiotic has made a great album regardless of how influenced by Japanese music it is or is not. They have always been able to write good riffs and be as brutal as brutal gets, but on Ikigai they also show off a talent for songwriting that is dynamic and captivating. For example, the fade out into the clean section of Horadric Cube and then the gradual layering of elements on top of the melody shows that the band understands pacing and how to build up to a moment. Grief Eater, Tear Drinker is a more traditional Technical Death Metal song, as much of an oxymoron as that may be, and assails listeners with catchy riffs and frenzied movement, which somehow manages to make sense. Songs like Covered The Cold Earth demonstrate carefully honed judgement over when to unleash hell and when to balance out the mayhem with dizzying riffs.

This is a good album and certainly worth listening to if you are a fan of any of Abiotic’s earlier work. This also may be a good listen for those not fond of the band as well, since it is certainly more experimental than what they have released in the past. 8/10

Heave Blood And Die - Post People (Fysisk Format) [Paul Scoble]

Norwegian 6 piece Heave Blood And Die have been on quite a journey in the years since they formed in 2014. The bands first, self titled album was very sludgy Doom, huge riffs with angry, aggressive vocals. Their second album; Vol.2 was still filled with huge riffs, but the style was closer to Post Rock than Sludge or Doom, and the vocals; although harsh, were less aggressive and nasty than on their debut album. So, as Heave Blood And Die are clearly a band that is evolving fast, where have the band, made up of Karl Løftingsmo Pedersen on Guitar and Vocals, Jonas Kuivalainen on Guitar, Benjamin Nerheim on Guitar, Eivind André Imingen on Bass, Marie Sofie Mikkelsen on Synths and Vocals and Kenneth Mortensen on Drums, got to in the 3 years since their second album? Well, quite a long way from their Post Rock sound and even further from their huge Sludgy Doom sound. On this release the guitars seem to have taken a back seat, they are still there, but in a much more supporting clean way, and the synths have come to the fore.

The album opens with Radio Silence, probably the most Post Rock sounding track on the album. There are lots of layers of guitar and keyboards, with gang vocals, although there is a softness to the vocals that works well. There is a slight feeling of polyrhythms and a very pleasing big central melody. Second track Kawanishi Aeroplane has a soft opening with some very nice clean vocals, the track feels like a poppy ballad and has a very big melodic chorus. Metropolitan Jam is probably the most interesting song on the album. It feels like this track comes mainly from elements of the early eighties. The song has a New Wave feel as well as a driving electro pop sense to it, and a pulsing bass that is reminiscent of Killing Joke. The vocals are echoey and a little bit gothic, and as a whole the song feels like an early dance track. True Believer is a huge slab of driving electro pop with a huge synth riff. Everything Is Now is slow and brooding with chanted vocals, a kind of dark ballad that feels hypnotic and despondent. Continental Drifting is mid-paced electro pop with an unrelenting driving rhythm. The song has a very strong melody and feels as if it gets bigger and bigger till the end of the song.

Geometrical Shapes takes us back to the more dark and brooding parts of Heave Blood And Die’s sound. It’s minimal in construction, but with clear melodies. The song gets bigger and less minimal as it gets near to its end, which is nasty and feels like Industrial Doom. The album comes to an end with the title track Post People. Post People is a very bouncy, happy piece of electronic pop which is a little reminiscent of some of Devin Townsend’s happy poppy material. The song has a dreamy ethereal feel, and is uptempo, but gentle and is a very blissed out way to end the album.

Heave Blood And Die have definitely moved away from the sound on their debut album. The band is far closer to pop music now, with the synths coming to the fore and the guitars taking more of a back seat. I also think it is interesting that a band that have a definite anti-capitalist and anti-hierarchical lyrical stance, have slowly morphed into a style that is much closer to the big business of Pop Music. The band is clearly subverting this style, and that makes this a very interesting album. Ok, it’s closer to pop music than what I usually listen to, but it’s full of big, strong tunes and great melodies, and is an album I’ve enjoyed listening to. 7/10

Dawnbringer – Betrayed EP (Self Released) [Liam True]

Being heavy for the sake of being heavy is a common occurrence in Deathcore to stand out from the crowd and bring the heaviest breakdowns to the table. This is not the case for Dawnbringer. With their blend of Deathcore & Hardcore they make a superb and different sound from two twisted genre’s.

Betrayed is exactly this. The result of hard work undertaken also, and above all, under the yoke of the limitations that the pandemic has brought with it. Live shows being cancelled, the impossibility of seeing each other consistently or in any case with the tranquillity and relaxation that accompany hours in the rehearsal room or studio sessions. The six tracks by Dawnbringer convey the will to make their way despite everything, to get out of the negativity of the moment and to embrace their passion and their sound at 100%, also demonstrating a remarkable ability to emerge in a historical moment that sees the Italian scene in need of fresh forces.

The band lead the assault into both Deathcore & Hardcore territory with strong downtempo assaults, between Thy Art Is Murder and Brutality Will Prevail. Listening to Betrayed is necessarily to be performed wearing camo shorts and Air Max: an American school EP but made in Italy that doesn't only make a miracle cry for all lovers of the genre. Anticipated by some singles, on which Point Of No Return stands out, a song in which in fact condenses all their sonic aggression (never an end in itself, it must be said). The work of the Sardinian band flows smoothly and without smudges. But what is obviously striking when we talk about a band belonging to the island's underground circuit is the desire to collaborate with local realities that make the do it yourself spirit their workhorse. Betrayed goes straight to the point, between a slow-motion breakdown and the right amount of cheeky and indifferent attitude; an EP that rightly does not look anyone in the face, being a genre to handle without velvet gloves. But above all, a further step towards the complete transformation of Sardinia into the new Italian heavy hub. 8/10

Serenity In Murder - Reborn (Oyster Brothers Records) [Matt Bladen]

Reborn is the first Serenity In Murder since 2017's The Eclipse and it's the first time I've listened to the band but colour me impressed. Reborn is a rabid, beastly death metal album, but it's also a cinematic, symphonic record full of huge melodies and orchestrations. It's also the debut of new vocalist Ayumu who replaces original vocalist Emi. Now I had to go back to hear any differences and there aren't many as Ayumu much like her predecessor both have that snarling, Angela Gossow-esque delivery. With the opening track bringing you into the record with a wide scope, Plead For You Life brings a grooving heaviness taking things more traditionally the reasonably recent rhythm section of Yu-ri (bass) and Allen (drums) really adding a grind before the track explodes into a blistering melodeath battering full of twin leads from Ryuji and Freddy with the latter also adding the excellent orchestrations which reminds me of bands such as early Fleshgod Apocalypse, Arch Enemy and even Shade Empire. 

There's also a tip of the cap to Septicflesh on The Titans which is a stunner of a track. Reborn has magic about it, I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I do but the brilliant fusion of melodeath/symphonic metal leanings really won me over. If you're having a bit of crap week, I suggest playing Leaves Burned To Ashes and I defy you not to start headbanging at least until the closing acoustic outro. I assume the title of Reborn refers to the recruitment of Ayumu on vocals but this is clearly a band who are seasoned professionals playing a style of metal that can often be done badly. With just one listen I was thankful Serenity In Murder do it marvellously, as the final song The Four Seasons brings the record to a cinematic climax full of Hans Zimmer orchestrations, layers of acoustics and then some classic metal dual leads on top of the blistering blast beats, you want to go round all over again with a sense of wonder. Seriously recommended! 9/10      

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