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I was walking through an electronics superstore one day with some friends down the CD aisle (the rock section because of course there will never be a metal section) and happened to notice the very first album on the rack. It caught my eye from about 10 feet away, the kickass album art drew me in with a force stronger than Darth Vader's sense of disturbance. I ran over and picked up the CD and oogled over the evil demon on the cover with the fancy lights and insane combination of colors all over. I turned it over and saw the three grimey looking, long haired metalheads with leather jackets and stoic faces. As if the album art wasn't enough for me to buy it, the song titles made it even more of an insta-buy, "Murder, Rape, Pillage, and Burn", "Impending Doom" and 3 bonus tracks AND 10 bucks... I didn't even think twice.
After first listening to this I instantly knew this was a worthy blind purchase, "real old school death metal done right, not this new -core shit" was my first thought. As I listened on I was drawn in by the neverending onslaught of metal, drawing in influences from both old school sounding death metal and heavier and harsher thrash metal. This is basically what Obituary and Morbid Angel would sound like if they started playing thrashier material. Everything about this screams for a more old school sound, summed up mostly by the vocals and the production. Trying to find obscure random albums like this, especially ones limited to 2000 copies for a low price is something I don't find very often, and even better... it's very good.
The self-titled gem starts off with the longest song on the album with blazing intensity and unleashing carnage all around. Pounding drums, razor sharp guitar riffs layered over wicked solos (remember Trey Azagthoth?) and harsh strained vocals reminscent of John Tardy mixed with Evil Chuck's glory days. At times he's unbelievably insane yelling and screaming at hyper fast blazing speed sometimes uttering sentences so fast I can't even begin to imagine what the fuck he just said; but for the most part it's fairly easy to understand him. Paul Speckmann is one of the better death/thrash vocalists I've heard in a very long time, and it seems like no one knows of him! The drums are another highlight, frantically blasting and hyper speed drum fills mixed with some faster double bass pounding, check Tunnel of Damnation's intro double bass solo (I finally found one!) starting off fast, building up to even FASTER!
The songs on here are all heavy and enjoyable, no filler. Even the bonus tracks added on my CD are just as intense and good. There are catchy yelled anthemic like songs, Murder, Rape, Pillage and Burn, that are so damn catchy it's impossible not to sing along. The death and thrash elements are prominent and to be found in pretty much every song and it's obvious that it's some of the best blend I have found in a while. Thrashing insane through riffing and lead guitar work, mixed with older style of buzzsaw riffing and blast beat drums. The bass is just as heavy and the fills to be found are solid and only adding more to the overall heaviness to this wicked debut.
I can't find much wrong with this release, there are barely many noticeable mistakes to be found on this debut. Everything here is pretty much ideally perfect, but it seems sometimes the songs run together making it less of a listen individually; which is why I like to listen to this album as a whole making it all the better with the constant barrage of heavy fucking metal. With little obvious error here, I really don't see what the problem is for any metalhead to own this album.
Abomination have come out of nowhere it seems with this self-titled debut and have slayed most opposition with just one release (I have yet to hear anything else by them). 1990 seemed to be quite a year for metalheads and this only helps that statement, and this unknown gem needs to stand out more than it should. This is exactly what I look for in death metal, highly influenced by thrash metal and instrumentation that is absolutely perfect; everything from the guitar playing to the vocals is a highlight on this gem. I highly suggest this to fans of Morbid Angel, Obituary, Kreator, and Dark Angel. This needs to be more well known, because this debut is very strong and heavy.
The fast and furious debut album from Chicago’s Abomination is an enjoyably frenetic piece of death metal history, bridging the gap seamlessly between the angry thrash of the late 80s, the even angrier grind of the turn of the 90s, and the brutal death metal that continued to be defined throughout the decade. While it opts to adopt traits from all three groups rather than bring anything particularly new to the table, Abomination’s self-titled release still sounds great today even if it is largely rooted in a specific 1990 sound, proving that metal still had a violent edge even before production values were kicked up a few notches and the crushing force of a live death metal performance could be transmitted to your own living room, cellar or car. But then, I am a bit of a sucker for primitive early 90s death.
‘Abomination’ was released on the burgeoning Nuclear Blast label, which would soon give rise to some of the most prominent extreme Scandinavian bands from the 90s up to the present day, though this is a full-blooded U.S.A. release with plenty of local references to the President and U.S. capitalist society (can you guess which side they’re on? This is nothing if not by-the-numbers aggro), and with enough obvious tips of the hat to genre forebears Slayer and Master as well as the numerous death and grind acts springing up all over the place. Based more in the sound of grind than death metal as it’s know today, the focus is less on achieving a deafening raucous through blasted drums, down-tuned guitars and roared vocals, and more a violent off-shoot of hardcore punk.
Paul Speckmann’s vocals are yelled with a genuine fury without becoming incomprehensible death grunts, while his bass can be heard distinctly and satisfyingly both over and between the speedy guitars, which are themselves primarily concerned with riffing along at a breakneck pace, often throwing up some interesting riff changes and squealed, brainless solos in the style of Slayer’s Kerry King. Aaron Nickeas’ drums are the most fore-grounded and impressive instrument, smothering the full extent of the kit in every song rather than restricting himself to maintaining a steady rhythm or relying solely on the double bass pedals that many lesser bands seem to think constitutes a heavy sound. The slightly lo-fi production quality means that the whole thing is still firmly rooted in the 80s, sounding more akin to thrash than the louder death metal being produced by Death and Morbid Angel, but really this only adds to its historical charm. Nuclear Blast’s more recent catalogue is full of death metal cacophonies, but this is a highly enjoyable album that will be enjoyed by Death and Anthrax fans alike.
1. The Choice
2. Murder, Rape, Pillage and Burn
4. Redeem Deny
6. Suicidal Dreams
7. Life and Death
8. Victim of the Future
9. Tunnel of Damnation
11. Impending Doom
The first and longest song is an overview of pretty much everything that the band has to offer, from some of Speckmann’s less generic lyrics (in that they don’t just concern war, government and religion) to a succession of great guitar riffs and time in the spotlight for the drums and, to a lesser but still notable extent, Speckmann’s punky bass. From here on the album varies very little from the standard fast, angry style, but most of the songs manage some form of deviation, whether that simply means adding a slow section as in ‘Follower,’ or throwing out some great, unexpected lead guitars as is the case with the excellent ‘Life and Death.’ Nickeas’ drums are at their best when unleashed in ‘Murder, Rape, Pillage and Burn,’ a song that’s also notable for the unadulterated enjoyment of its chorus, where the bitter, anti-everything title is yelled in unison punk fashion, but the drums suffer considerably when attempts are made to explore a genuine ‘heavy’ sound, not really suited to the album’s production. ‘Reformation’ ends up sounding far less brutal than its exhaustive skin-hammering efforts clearly intended, while the unwise drum intro to ‘Tunnel of Damnation’ is bizarrely the worst percussion of the whole album, largely due to its reliance on a bass drum extravaganza in unsuitable circumstances.
There’s genuine rage throughout this album, particularly evident in the spiteful yells of the more hateful songs such as ‘Suicidal Dreams,’ but there are also unfortunately a number of times where the energy and ideas seem to run out by the half-way point of the song, leading to over-repetition that could easily have been avoided by trimming the track length to something more appropriate, which would still exceed the grindcore average length of around twenty seconds. The unfortunate distanced sound of the guitars caused by the production’s bass-heavy preference also means that many of their more interesting offerings can easily pass listeners by, often forming a mere wall of sound against which Nickeas is free to explore his drum kit, in an odd turnaround of the normal order.
Perhaps my favourite track is ‘Possession,’ if only for its unusual and entertaining deviation, as Speckmann slowly but surely recites the Lord’s Prayer in full around the half-way point, yelled in anger and accompanied by a tormented scream in the distance, before the guitars move into an uncharacteristically chirpy rendition of ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ with ever-so-subtly changed vocals (‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the death’ – did you spot it?). ‘Follower’ is another fine song with some great Testament-style eerie lead guitars, and along with its successor ‘Impending Doom,’ was added to CD versions as a ‘bonus track’ present on all versions, but not on the equivalent LP. This final song is far less noteworthy, sounding like a carbon copy of much more famous earlier songs by Slayer, particularly in its replication of key aspects of ‘Angel of Death.’
Abomination’s name was never going to go down in history alongside their more creative and commercially successful contemporaries, but their albums are still great examples of early death metal in its genesis, before the sound became fairly standardised and repetitive. Paul Speckmann is a great frontman and impressive songwriter, his lyrics following the usual anarchistic agenda but managing to incorporate a large degree of irony and empathy, and it’s a shame he wasn’t a greater presence in the field alongside greats such as Chuck Schuldiner. ‘Abomination’ is relatively hard to come by, but some of their subsequent albums released prior to their mid-nineties break-up ought to be a little more in the limelight.