I remember the first time I heard Scott Burns’s production and suddenly death metal became clear. I don’t just mean that suddenly I understood the appeal. I mean that it literally became clear. I could differentiate instruments, notes even. It wasn’t just a grotty ball of sonic slime. It’s perhaps hard to imagine now when extreme metal is the norm, but in the early days, death metal was… difficult. No one quite knew how to record instruments being played at such speed and vocals that sounded like the inside of a sick bag, without everything getting muddied. Of course, there’s still a market – if not entire subgenres – for that O.G. lo-fi sound but, for me, that clearer late-80s/early-90s Florida sound was like when Dorothy steps into Oz for the first time and everything turns to colour.
Abyssus has made that step with their new album, Death Revival. They’ve followed the red-stained road from 2015’s Into The Abyss, their last full-length offering, and ended up in a (black) magical place. This new, crisp production brings everything out and lets even a casual ear really appreciate what they do. Last year’s Relics of the Past EP was a good indicator of exactly what that is, with the bands whose songs they covered – Hellhammer, Possessed and Terrorizer – showing their influences. It’s old, old skool death and they channel it well. While they’ve risen up from the raw toilet sludge of their earlier sound, there’s still no mistaking the brutality and heaviness of what they do. It’s not a softening. It’s sharpening.
Death Revival is just 7 songs long but each one has a memorable chorus and some utterly ferocious riffing. Kostas Analytis’s vocals are from the Chuck Schuldiner/John Tardy school of growls and it’s nice to hear a new band playing around with this particular brand of old death. You won’t find much in the way of gutturals or blastbeats on here – it’s borderline thrash at times – but for those of us with long memories, Death Revival gives just the right mix of nostalgia and excitement.
Where Abyssus make their mark is in pure songwriting terms. It’s taken 7 years to release these 7 songs (a lateral occultist nod?) but you can see where the time went. There’s nothing wasted here. No throwaways. No songs where you think “what was the point of that”? Arguably not even a riff that doesn’t slap you around at least a couple of times. There’s even a studied structure to the way the album blossoms as it goes, like a poisonous flower, from the punchy opening 1-2 of Metal Of Death and Ten Commandments to the epic closer When The Wolves Are Out To Hunt.
There are a lot of bands at the moment looking to the past for their inspiration but Abyssus feel like they offer something different. It’s taken time to find their way but Death Revival puts them squarely on the map (of Hell). There’s mad energy, subtle technical wizardry and massive hooks popping out of every minute of this one. What’s interesting is that Transcending Obscurity has released three amazing OSDM records recently – this, Wombbath and Abscession – and none of them sound remotely the same, proving there’s still (ironically) an abundance of life left in the genre.
Abyssus released Death Revival through Transcending Obscurity on 21st January and you can pick it up here.