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Abysmal Dawn - Phylogenesis - 75%

Livingwave17, May 22nd, 2020

LA’s technical death metal slashers Abysmal Dawn have been active since 2003 and have put out four well appreciated records until 2014. After a 6 year hiatus since the last effort “Obsolescence”, the band is back with another package of branded chuggaliciousness (yes that’s a word… I think). “Phylogenesis” marks an eagerly awaited return, but would it live up to its expectations? Well.. yes and no… depending on what you would want from a comeback. That is to say that the band doesn’t seem to have changed much about their style and the new record works consistently in the vein all previous records. If you’re a fan of Abysmal Dawn’s work thus far and simply eager for more, the new record should play well in your books. But considering the time taken to create the album, some innovation would have been nice, and for those hoping for a treasure chest of surprise, it may come as a letdown.

Since the inception AD have been kings in realms of casual tech-death, and it seems they’re not trying to take any roads untraveled. Now there’s nothing particularly wrong with a band that consistently delivers a good branded recipe that they can call their own, but it just so happens that for these guys, that recipe was a pretty simple and straightforward take on tech-death to begin with. Probably the greatest draw-back to “Phylogenesis” is its randomness. It has all the required components for a record in this genre. The guitar lines have a penchant for chasing rabbits on the fret-board both in the riff and lead section, the cookie monster styled vocals take a fast gritty grunt that often follows the instrumental patterns, the overall execution has a very articulate feel, and the sound production is rather dry conveying a well fitted mechanical feel. Even down to the, admittedly pretty sick album art (which looks ripped straight out of the Alien movies), Abysmal Dawn stay very prototypical.

With all that somewhat nasty stuff out of the way, this record is actually an enjoyable listen, compact, dense, high octane and just diverse enough to not go stale through a modest 43 minute run-time. They’re sticking to the ground rules, but their execution doesn’t leave much room for error. The song structures aren’t mind-blowingly complex but hence also stay easily digestible, and a strong groovy feel keeps the record engaging most of the times. The dry-ness of it also brings a slightly raw component and I feel like despite the expectedly forward-thinking techy niche, Abysmal Dawn actually keep a toe into the old school when it comes to the guitar tones and some riff structures. As a result it may also be more compatible to those who favor the pure-breed version of death metal over the scene’s more recent nerd-fests. The songs are properly balanced in between being accessible but also keeping a challenging component. The solos generally don’t take longer than 20 seconds and shred away with a slightly dissonant feel, and the riffs themselves also move about a lot holding a constant dynamic to the structure of the songs, but there are also hooky rhythm patterns and recurring ideas in every piece.

Despite the standard consistency of the music on display here, I was able to spot a few stand-out moments in the record. The single “Hedonistic” gives probably the most infectious chuggy main riff on the record, tracing back to that aforementioned groovy component. “Coerced Evolution” also offers some sweet staccato riffing as well as more spaced-out chords in the second part, taking a break from the constant chugs. Towards the end of the record “The Lament Configuration” is the longest piece, at over six minutes and brings a more widespread and extended take compared to the rest of the short punchy bangers, with more of an evolutionary pattern to the intro and the fading outro, versus the abrupt kick off and endings of most songs. And with that Abysmal Dawn have made their voice heard once more. I suspect this album won’t end up at the top of many Spotify playlists, but whether you dwell in realms of tech or old school death metal, it has enough to deserve a couple of spins. “Phylogenesis” is available now through Season of Mist and Bandcamp.


Originally written for The Metal Observer: