There are at least a dozen heavy metal bands scattered across the globe that share the name Abyss. Why a new-ish band would pick such a generic name, knowing full well the confusion to follow, is hard to say. Perhaps it is a way for the band to motivate themselves – to make sure that their music is distinctive and strong, so that they don’t tumble into the –
Heretical Anatomy is Abyss’ first full-length album, though “full-length” is a loose term here. The unholy thing is only about 20 minutes long, with more than five of those devoted to “Thrall of the Elder Gods,” a song that stands out for its doomful, creeping pace and soaring, almost redemptive guitar solo. The other seven songs range from about a minute to three-and-a-half minutes long.
Abyss are generally described as death metal, but this description typically comes with caveats. Heretical Anatomy’s governing philosophy is not decay, but momentum. Apart from the aforementioned “Elder Gods” and the end part of “The Atonement,” the band generally churn forward at a lively, mosh-ready pace. The guitars are low, fuzzed and sludgy, bringing d-beat and crust punk to mind. There are blasting passages redolent of doomed-out grindcore. At other times the music proceeds at a thrash metal lope…
It’s easy to get bogged down in the subgenres. For easier comparisons, one need look no further than other bands on the 20 Buck Spin label. Abyss are about halfway between the unhinged morbid energy of a Bone Sickness and the rumbling menace of a Mammoth Grinder.
And they’re good! Chris Hegge’s recording is raw and naturalistic, and Joel Grind’s mix and master strikes the right balance between bassy rumble and metal presence. Abyss’ riffs are catchy and enjoyable and the songwriting contains enough wrinkles, stops, starts and dynamics to keep things mostly unpredictable. The vocals manifest as gruff, snarling bellows, and the lyrical portraits of body horror and eldritch tarnation are like horrified warnings delivered with the faintest hint of twinkle-eyed glee.
It’s simple to tell that this album is meant for easy consumption (among heavy music fans at least). There is not much time spent fussing over technicality, narrative concepts or any other grand ambitions. Heretical Anatomy is the kind of album that kicks your ass for 20 minutes then vanishes back into the… It eschews brooding self-importance in favor of nimble, rollicking grotesquery. By the time the juggernaut that is “Nightmares in Skin” barrels past the finish line, you’ll realize that although Heretical Anatomy may not be terribly inventive or memorable, it sure as hell is fun while it lasts, and will be just as fun again later on. Sometimes that kind of simple utility is all it takes to make an album indispensable.