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Abiotic > A Universal Plague > Reviews > silentflight
Abiotic - A Universal Plague

Awkward at times, but not as bad as people make it out to be. - 70%

silentflight, November 19th, 2023

Let me just preface this with the fact that I've always loved deathcore. My earliest introduction to more extreme forms of metal was As I Lay Dying, and from there I grew to love bands like Whitechapel, Suicide Silence, Winds of Plague, Job for a Cowboy, etc. through my middle-to-high-school years. I was probably 15 when I heard this EP for the first time, having stumbled upon the music video for Vermosapien and being blown away by the sweeping bass and punishing gutturals. Not to make generalizations, but I think a lot of the hate for this band comes from people who DON'T like deathcore, and I understand why. They marketed themselves as a technical death metal band, and if you spun this EP or one of their albums expecting Gorguts or something, you'd probably hate it too.

My love for this band was pretty short lived however, as their debut full-length, Symbiosis contained only 3 new (and disappointing) songs, with the other 7 being, in my opinion, just worse versions of the songs on this EP. I won't review Symbiosis here, but in short. The bass (which is one of the standout aspects of this EP to me) was mixed so low that it might as well not even been included, and the overall production was so overdone that the songs lost all the punch they had in their original recordings. Casuistry was a joke, and I stopped listening to them after that. This EP wasn't readily available to listen to outside of YouTube, and the Symbiosis versions were pretty much unlistenable to me.

I found out recently that this EP was available on Spotify as A Universal Plague: Mutation along with a bonus track and a re-recording of Vermosapien, so I decided to give it a spin. I won't be reviewing the two bonus tracks, just the original 7 songs from the 2011 EP.

There isn't much to say about the two instrumental tracks on this EP. Metamorphillia contains a single riff and a semi-melodic breakdown, and Exitus is a minute-and-a-half-long breakdown. These tracks can be skipped as far as I'm concerned, as they add nothing to the album.

Vermosapien, in my mind, has always been the standout track on this record. If you can listen to that opening riff without banging your head, I commend you. People accuse this band of being technical just to be technical, and while maybe that became true later on, I don't see it on this record. The guitar riffs and sweeping bass pair together to create something truly brutal yet melodic. Even on the breakdowns, there's usually some kind of guitar lead or solo being played that adds a layer of melody to the chugging.

Ray Jiminez's guttural vocals on this record are truly punishing and another highlight in my opinion. The problem, is that he doesn't use them nearly enough. More than half of the vocals on this EP are this really grating high scream that just does NOT sound good. I think it's tolerable when mixed into the music well, which on this version, it is. But if I had to just listen to nothing but his screams, I think I would get a headache.

As I've mentioned before, Alex Vasquez's bass playing is a HUGE plus, and in this EP, it is in the forefront of the mix. The tone is incredible, and he plays it with speed and precision. I'm also a big fan of the lead guitar work on this EP. None of the solos feel forced to me. The songs spend a proper amount of time building up to them, and despite the technical outside appearance, they're very melodic and well-written. There's even parts of this album where the band ventures into a more progressive style, most apparent on the title track with the inclusion of some clean guitar interludes, and towards the end of The Graze of Locusts.

What DOES feel forced, is a good amount of the breakdowns, unfortunately. Just to name a few; the end of Vermosapien goes on for WAY too long and there's maybe 2 minutes of the title track that's comprised of djenty breakdowns that add nothing to an otherwise surprisingly progressive song. I don't feel this way about every breakdown on this EP, but there's definitely a few points where it feels like they wrote a song, and said NOT BRUTAL ENOUGH and shoved an awkward breakdown between two sections that would have flown together nicely without it.

Another place they lose me on this record, is with the electronic sound design. For example, during the breakdown before the solo on Vermosapien, there are several computer-y noises that sound like a mixture of a dial-up modem, and a robot powering down or something. These kind of electronic soundscapes continue throughout the record, and it's another thing that I feel adds nothing to the record other than "technical means it should sound like it's from the future!!!"

All in all, this is the best offering this band has put out to date, in my opinion. The rawness of the production has a charm to it that the rest of their music doesn't, and structurally, these are the best songs they've written, despite the parts that are awkward or just unpleasant. To me, this sounds like early Beyond Creation with more of an emphasis on breakdowns. But if you don't like deathcore, A Universal Plague probably just isn't for you.

Favorite songs:
Conquest of Gliese
The Graze of Locusts