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improvisational black/death metal - 88%

stonetotem, May 2nd, 2009

I find that Abruptum are an oft misunderstood band. On the one hand you've got raving fans declaring that they're the epitome of true evil, absolute audial torture and anyone who doesn't like them must fear Satan, and on the other hand you've got naysayers denouncing them as moronic, talentless and horrendously overrated. Well I think both are pretty much wrong. There are some other qualms I have with Abruptum's status in the black metal scene in general, most of all the fact that they get called black metal at all (which I blame primarily on their association with Euronymous and his Deathlike Silence label). Furthermore a lot of the hype surrounding this band is just annoying bullshit, such as the claims that the singer was actually being tortured and his screams are completely genuine, or that putting on an Abruptum album will make you go into a Satanic trance and kill everyone. I mean gimme a fuckin' break.

Anyhow... on their demos and the "Evil" EP (collectively the "Evil Genius" CD) they were essentially death metal, or black/death metal at the most. Their style at that point, while still bizarre and disjointed compared to many bands was still death metal at its core. For their first full-length release they went astray from any basic genre distinction. The only thing you could call it is improvisational black/death metal. And I mean completely improvised, I doubt any of this stuff had been written beforehand. The album is split into two roughly half hour parts rather than songs. Most often the album follows a basic structure in which a drum beat comes in (and I really like the recording on the drums, it's very powerful and primitive) and then a heavy filthy chord rings out over it, sometimes working into sections of basic heavy riffs and pounding drums, but often sinking into disarray. A great deal of the album is sunk into more minimal and purely improvised parts not resembling normal song structures. This is where most of the criticism of the album comes from. In these parts they'll play disjointed notes and chords and drum beats beginning and then falling apart or going into a blasting frenzy at random and stopping abruptly. The vocals are all over the map too, varying between lower death metal grunts, higher screams, and strange off-key chanting and moans. Everyone involved is just going into a frenzy, and it's something you will rarely find in any band associated with black or death metal that isn't emulating Abruptum. The sound production here is actually quite clean, or at least much moreso than one would expect for a cult early 90s "black metal" release. Played at high volumes the drums absolutely pound and in the heavier guitar sections it's quite a sound to be heard. Understandably, the problem many people have with this band is that rather than sticking to the more structured death metal sound of their earliest material they stray off into cacophonous improvisation for the larger part of their first three albums.

Abruptum is quite an interesting band, but fuck the hype and fuck the naysayers. For those who are into sick, heavy, filthy and disgusting mayhem it's just what the doctor ordered. That being said I understand the criticisms and why so many people would stray away from their first three full-length releases and prefer the disgusting death metal found on "Evil Genius". Also I should mention that this stuff being called "dark ambient" is a piss off. Dark ambient has just become a cop-out for anything different that's supposed to be related to black metal. Although admittedly their final album should probably be called dark ambient. But I don't like that shit.