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It's not often that the first work produced in any given genre can be compared to stand up to those that would succeed it. Take Seven Churches, for instance, which was stomped on by Leprosy and mercilessly destroyed by Altars of Madness in just around two years. That's not to say Seven Churches is a bad album; rather, I respect it more for its historical significance than its actual musical value. Within the smaller but no less fascinating realm of Finnish death metal, can Abhorrence's Vulgar Necrolatry possibly stand up to the grimy chunks of primordial ooze such as World Without God or extraterrestrial oddities like Nespithe?
The only correct answer would be a resounding yes. Once you get through the baffling intro of incoherent pitch-shifted murmurs and cheap synth effects, the title track delivers doubled octave tremolo riffs, sloppy grindcore blastbeats (odd how the Finns stumbled upon death metal by way of grind rather than thrash), and what is probably the first 'Finndeath lead', unabashedly wretched and chromatic, further contorted by the bass line creeping beneath. Chaotic whammy dives, clearly Slayer influenced, are liberally thrown around, while the hollow, distant growl (rhythmically similar to David Vincent's one-hit wonder rasp on Altars of Madness, albeit deeper) that would become a staple among their progeny began here as well. Whether they know it or not, pretty much every Finndeath band that has existed owes it to this song in one way or another.
The subsequent two tracks demonstrate a similar modus operandi, constantly switching between muddy, warbled tremolos and morbid lurches with either an eerie lead floating overhead or more wham-jams. The fuzzed out guitars have this tendency to play really fucking fast when alone, but they slow down automatically when the drums join in - a telltale sign that they didn't really make any effort to keep in time, made more noticeable due to the tempo changes all over the place. Increases in tempo often result in a sort of divergence between the guitars and drums, as if both were trapped in a desperate struggle to keep up with each other. As mentioned, the drumming in the faster parts is more grind than death, meaning the snares are closely aligned with the bass hits, further adding to the confusion. While this talk of sloppy musicianship might sound like a criticism, it actually treads a very fine line between visceral intensity and barbaric incoherence. Presumably upon label request, the band would take steps to tidy up their sound on their EP; not necessarily a bad move, but I feel the grit you find here is very much more attuned to the music at hand.
Vulgar Necrolatry was undeniably influential in moulding the characteristic sound of Finnish death metal. If you were to trace the genealogy of the region all the way back to its origin, you can sort of guess how the genre would eventually progress. Bands could either expand upon the grimy and filth of Abhorrence or adopt the weirder, riff-machine approach of Funebre - naturally, most opted for the former, which eventually gave rise to many of the Finnish classics you (probably) hold dear to today.
Abhorrence is one of those cult death metal acts that never “made it” in the mainstream death metal scene, though deserving it. This band made just a demo and an EP in the early 90s, before disbanding and being remembered just by the nostalgic old school death scene (principally for having some Amorphis members in the lineup), until finally there was a reunion two years ago. Talking about their discography... I usually see more praise towards their self-titled EP, but I think that their demo, “Vulgar Necrolatry”, should be recognized as their best release.
What you need to know first is that this demo delivers pure uncompromising death metal, in a pretty Finnish fashion, but with a major focus on creepy atmospheres than usual. I mean, “Cause of Death” had still to come out, and on “Vulgar Necrolatry” you find some of the most spine-chilling atmospheres ever heard in death metal until then. Now, let’s go more in the detail.
After a gloomy intro, the title-track comes in, offering immediately all the greatest elements you’ll find on this demo: incredibly morbid riffing, insane blast-beats and extremely sick vocal performance. This apparently “typical” formula is brought to its maximum consequences, with a devastating impact on the listener and creating an atmosphere of pure panic. I think I’m not exaggerating if I say that this demo features some of the sickest tremolo riffs I’ve ever heard, especially on the title-track and on the last track, “Devourer of Souls”. I couldn’t even think about a precise comparison to make - maybe just Morbid Angel’s “Altars of Madness”, but still quite different, and with a vague grindcore feel to it (though being not straightly punk-influenced). This is very personal stuff, with standout melodic ideas.
Obviously, a rightful Scandinavian death metal release can’t lack sinister guitar phrasings, and this demo is no exception, but, talking about guitar work, the most remarkable element beside the fast riffage is the insane solo work, which is totally focused on dissonance (Kerry King would be proud!) and often accompanies the phrasings or the fastest and sickest sections, making the music scarier and more morbid. Every track has at least one of these solos, and of course the result is absolutely disturbing. The true peak of this formula is at the end of the last track, where a rain of blast-beats rapes you violently and, above the “dramatic” death metal riffage, the dissonant solos play a dominant role, with a totally traumatic effect.
Besides this masterful collection of intense fast parts, this demo features also a different side, almost “parallel” to the one I described above (but all in all it’s just the other side of the coin): every song, especially “Pleasures of Putrid Flesh”, is packed with several slow parts that help to make the work even more sinister. To be honest, the “doom component” is less spectacular in comparison to the fast parts, but it’s still pretty effective. When the title track will slow down, accompanied by some of the gloomiest guitar phrasings of the whole release, you’ll find yourself begging for mercy in front of all this morbidity.
Now, I think there would be all the conditions for a 90+ rating, basing on everything I said until now. Is there any relevant flaw to report? Well, the biggest flaw of this demo, the only thing that separates it from being an absolute masterpiece of the genre, is the fact that the two components I described (fast parts and doomy parts) are really too disjointed and tend to alternate each other too frequently, giving a quite annoying feeling. I’m not at all costs for “coherent music from start to finish”, and I’m definitely not against the frequent use of tempo changes in music (they’re part of many albums I praise), but on this demo, the several fragmentations leave you a bit disoriented, and ruin a bit the overall enjoyment.
However, “Vulgar Necrolatry” is still a putrid, morbid and, indeed, “vulgar” demo that will leave you amazed if you’re fan of early-90s obscure death metal. Sickness is absolutely guaranteed. Without doubt, this is the best Abhorrence release.
*pointless two minute intro*
Abhorrence’s Vulgar Necrolatry represents what is probably the earliest example of the Finnish death metal sound; the darkly melodic harmonizations, short, repetitious tremolo picked phrases and midrange, de-emphasized vocals (these “softer” gutturals would become characteristic of many of the European death metal bands as compared to their more explosive American comrades) set the precedent for bands like Amorphis, Demigod, and Adramelech. As such, this is a quite short, but historically important ode to death and all that is decayed, that will be of interest to those looking for early attempts at European death metal. Production is dank, rotten and contains tape fuzz which reaches Transilvanian Hunger levels, but suitably, the highest value is placed on guitar clarity; the visible bass presence is quite welcome as well.
Abhorrence create quite a compelling atmosphere on this demo; the vile production coupled with the focus on morbidity of melody create a clear aesthetic of total death embrace. Not unlike their immediate ancestors, the 80’s death metallers, Abhorrence utilize short chromatic riffs or “horror movie” melodies gratuitously, both in the traditional tremolo picking or in slow, morbid, crawling segments which usually end up being harmonized higher in absolute parallel motion. Although probably musically uncouth, these mirror perfect harmonizations; which were becoming ever more rampant in the death metal of the time, work perfectly in the context of the demo, creating that rising sense of fear that old horror movie music scores sought to achieve. These morbid melodies are often flavored by those wonderfully rotten, sawing, chugging, riffs that Suffocation would later make popular adding a distinct rhythmic flavor to the demo. Sawing against the motion of the drums, they create a sense of movement within movement, or perhaps if you like, maggots crawling over a walking corpse. Guitar harmonics frequently squeal and squirm, disgustingly intruding their way into the proceedings, while solos are abrupt Slayer chromatic runs that in the usual death metal tradition, are only appealing as swift bursts of random, deconstructive, thought. Being juvenile songwriters I must applaud the lack of repetition here, segments rarely repeat, though some blasting grindy sections are quite similar to each other and seem to serve as mere bridges to reach the next dirge, leaving parts of this demo feeling fragmentary, as if placeholders for better ideas. Still, this demo remains endearing for its mood, even if musically under thought and too abrupt at times.
I believe much potential in atmosphere can be gleaned from these early recordings, as juvenile as they may be, though sadly they were never really revisited. (though rerecorded) These early, youthful, morbid exultations have an honest and clear conception of theme and its representation, that drive the music of this release; not just an attempt at style, and that’s what gives demos such as this a more lasting appeal than many of their contemporaries. This comes highly recommended to those who wish to hear the history of the Finnish death style or those who seek an early attempt at atmosphere within death metal. Members of this project went on to form Amorphis.
Since I’m the biggest Amorphis fan in the known universe, it’s a wonder that I’d never thoroughly checked out Abhorrence until earlier last year. I’d heard vague rumours that they were classics of the early Finnish death metal scene, but I guess I just never considered that a band that was active for less than two years who only released a short demo and an EP could have much to offer but, my friends, let me sincerely admit that I was gravely mistaken. Abhorrence fucking rule, and tell everyone you know this fact.
The Vulgar Necrolatry demo is an obscure little gem of Finnish death metal lore, but a damned significant one at that. It was the first recorded piece of music in which Tomi Koivusaari lent his riffs of ungodlike mastery, before going on to mastermind Amorphis, alongside Esa Holopainen, of then Violent Solution notoriety. Also, albeit a decade after Abhorrence’s gruesome demise, Mika ‘Arkki’ Arnkil, would go on to provide bass for Impaled Nazarene. So, two prominent members of two of Finland’s most influential metal bands played together in a band in their teens, and what did it sound like? Well, disgustingly primitive and violent death metal, naturally. Sure, the production is about as harsh and gruff as it comes, but in a much more tasteful way than bedroom bands. The riffs trudge through the grain like a thick blizzard and the solos squeal through the mix like a tortured banshee.
The opening and title track is clearly the centerpiece of the release, and it’s no wonder Amorphis still play this song live. After the eerie, yet admittedly needless intro, the riffs stomp forth and never let up. Merging between a mid and fast pace, this song never ceases to decimate. The vocals are heavily Carcass inspired, and while the music is certainly brutal, there are still melodic moments which already remind one of the more epic moments of Amorphis’ debut, The Karelian Isthmus. Top it off with a raging solo near the end, and here you have one of Abhorrence’s best songs. What surprises me most about this release is the fact that if you can contain yourself from headbanging for a split second, and look beyond the filthy production, you’ll notice that much of the music is legitimately catchy. I could hum the breakdown at about 50 seconds into Pleasures of Putrid Flesh all day long.
This is definitely an example of a classic demo in desperate need of a good reissue. This, along with Abhorrence’s EP, really does belong in the collection of fans of the early Scandinavian and British death metal scenes. It will remind you of Dismember, it will remind you of Carcass and early Bolt Thrower, but it will also offer you something different. The filthy production and putrid atmosphere do well to hide some haunting melodic breaks which really is the charm of Abhorrence. This is music to dig up festering graves to, or desecrate holy tombstones. That or, you know, just get drunk and headbang with the bros.
Abhorrence is another cult band in the Finnish musical panorama. A status reached with just two releases, soon become very rare pieces for the collectors. That period in Finland was great for the vast number of bands playing this genre, the gore death metal. These bands are not famous but are quite good anyway even if I believe that Abhorrence belong, in their sickness, to the most intelligent side of this genre in that country.
The music is always very inspired by the gore grind/death metal of bands like Repulsion and Carcass but there is always something different in the riffage that somehow leads to the American death metal scene and groups like Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. During the fast tremolo picking parts on the chords and the mid paced parts those influences from the band of David Vincent are easily audible, along with a similar guitars tune.
The atmosphere is rotten and putrid but the production is not so much. The grind parts, full of blast beats, are a bit too noisy but the lead guitars lines are always well audible. The groovy mid tempo parts are very good and they contribute in creating an excellent mix of sonorities. It’s very hard to choose a stand out track because the melody or the catchiness are not the most important things but the good level of technique and the burden of violence make this demo quite enjoyable.
The vocals are not too growling and this is another good point. Funebre and Demilich for example had too guttural vocals but here they are more “suffocated” style and more American. The lyrics are always gore inspired as you can see and they fit into this sound quite well. All in all, a small, very important demo that should be known by every death metal lovers. Abhorrence was already a quite mature band here and it’s a pity that a group like this couldn’t continue their musical career.
Abhorrence was a pre-Amorphis death metal band that managed to get signed to the now infamous rip-off label Seraphic Decay and release one 7" EP. Of course, Amorphis themselves put out some killer death metal on their first EP "Privilege of Evil". There was a song on there called "Vulgar Necrolatry", which not many people may know was originally recorded by Abhorrence on this demo of the same title. The music and production on this tape is raw and totally stripped down when compared to "Privilege of Evil", but alone it stands as an influential release that got lots of attention when it came out. The songs offer a good mixture of slow, doomy sections and fast, blasting parts. Some insane guitar solos are also present, which is always great to hear.
After a bonechilling ritual-like intro called "The Cult", the title song kicks in. Immediately you can tell that the production here is bare bones, especially in the drums which are recorded very low in the mix. It's so lo-fi that the bass drum is barely audible! But despite the drum production, the guitars and bass actually sound very good. The guitar tone is amazing - one of the darkest I've ever heard on a debut demo. The vocalist sounds very similar to the singer on "Vulgar Necrolatry" from the Amorphis EP. I'm not 100% sure if it's the same guy, but if you listen to that EP then you'll notice the difference in vocals on that song when compared to the other tracks. You can actually understand him fairly well on the demo, despite the accent... But back to the song: It seems to be played a little bit slower than on the Amorphis EP, but not to the point where it doesn't even sound like the same riffs. The haunting guitar part about midway through the song always sends chills down my spine!
The next song is "Pleasures of Putrid Flesh". The lyrics are totally cheesy, dealing with eating cadavers, genitals, etc. I actually never read the words, but as I mentioned before it's easy to understand the vocalist when he sings. Pretty cool. The song itself is not so generic, instead it's probably the stand-out composition on the demo. There's a completely evil bass solo somewhere in the middle that will tear your skin off. While "Vulgar Necrolatry" had 2 or 3 dark riffs, this song has 5 or 6. Abhorrence just continue bombarding the listener with utter darkness and fear. Towards the end, the music slows down and the vocalist sings "I find no pleasure in life..." during which I think the coolest riff on the entire demo is played. It's simple, doomy and filled with haunting melody - classic Finnish death!
The final song is called "Devourer of Souls" - I can name at least 2 other bands (Broken Hope and Summon) that have used this same title before. I guess it's a common lyrical theme for starting death metal groups. This song is the thrashiest one yet, filled with some fast guitar solos and cool thrash beats for maximum headbanging. But then once again, a haunting doom riff appears out of nowhere and you're reminded that the darkness is not yet over. This particular guitar riff reminds me of some melodies used on Disgrace's "Inside the Labyrinth..." demo, which is one of my favorite demos of all time so of course I was happy to hear it!
This demo is definitely for die-hards. The production is just too minimal for the mainstream death metal audience to accept, but once you get past the sound then you'll learn to appreciate this demo for what it is. A masterpiece of darkness.