Review: The Black Dahlia Murder – Abysmal (Deluxe Edition)

Location: Waterford, Michigan
Genre: Melodeath
Released: September 18, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC

By: Kris Kotlarik

For many years, I was unimpressed with The Black Dahlia Murder’s output. I tended to write them off as some Hot Topic butt metal band. But when they were in Columbus during the Decibel Magazine tour featuring Noisem, Carcass and Gorguts, they more than held their own as a live band in a lineup full of impressive performers. So I decided to look into their output further and I found that for me, their music has a niche. And that niche is workout music. Their seventh full album, Abysmal, fits that same mold.

This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. If I’m running a 5/10K, this is exactly the kind of album I would want to play. It doesn’t let up at any point in time from start to finish, which is fantastic. But at some point, when you dig deeper into the album’s sound, you start to realize that all the tracks kind of sound eerily similar to each other.

After the third track, I drifted into daydream mode because nothing was standing out as anything different from what I had already heard. So I had to go back again several times and listen to it, and each time, I had the same thing happen: I would zone out with Abysmal playing in the background.

You’re probably thinking I have ADD or something like that, and you’re probably right. My brain loves music that goes in a bunch of different directions throughout an album. But to be fair, this is a marked upgrade over similar albums by Arch Enemy and In Flames. In this case, being consistent and not letting up is to the album’s benefit. And although it’s difficult to remember standout tracks, there are plenty of standout moments, such as the fun dual-channel guitar interlude towards the end of “Vlad, Son of the Dragon,” and the impressive title track’s unrelenting blasts.

There aren’t any bad tracks, but there are very few that stand out among the others. The vocals remind me somewhat of The Dillinger Escape Plan mixed with a metalcore element. The production is also crisp, in line with their previous works. But the bonus tracks merely feel like an extension of the record itself. They don’t add much substance, but like the rest of the record, they are fun. And that’s what counts, right?

The last thing I want to point out here is that the run time (under 43 minutes counting the bonus tracks) is just about perfect for an album like this. If it were any longer, listener fatigue would set in. The band and label know that they don’t need to put 70 minutes of material on an album in order for it to succeed, and they got the run time here exactly right.

Overall: If you’re looking for a constant rush of energy, look here.

Rating: 3.0*

Buy the album here.


Review: Beyond Creation – Earthborn Evolution

Location: Montreal, Canada
Genre: Progressive/Technical Death Metal
Released: October 24, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Upcoming Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Beyond Creation‘s first album was met with mixed reviews (69%) on metal-archives. Some hailed it as a masterpiece in the tech-death subgenre, while others roasted it and said it “almost completely sucks.” Admittedly, I’m not overly familiar with their first album; a glossary listen points to it being rather similar to their second effort, Earthborn Evolution.

What we have here is some Hour Of Penance vocals mixed with Gorguts bass lines, and occasional chuggity riffs that could have just as easily been written by anyone else. On the bright side, there is quite a bit of variety in these tracks, and since I specifically named Gorguts as a primary influence in their bass sound, that is going to factor in favorably in the rating. The bass shows up all over the place in pleasant doses that get your attention.

Unfortunately, the vocals, which are one of the main reasons I do not care for Hour Of Penance, also hinder my impression of this group. But what also bothers me here is the drums, which are played so in such a robotic way that it could almost be mistaken for a drum machine. I have no doubt that this group’s drummer is excellent at his craft, but I can’t get into this the way I get into other groups with massively technical drummers, such as those from Fleshgod Apocalypse or Gorguts, or Hazardeurbecause the sound is significantly less dynamic here.

As for what my favorite tracks are on this album, I can’t begin to break most of them down because these ten tracks all feel like extensions of each other with minimal separation between them. Much like the drumming, the songwriting is almost completely robotic. The one track that stands out in a positive way is “Theatrical Delirium,” which shows signs of dynamic awareness and contains some ridiculous bass licks that should make any enthusiast of the instrument smile. In fact, this might be a candidate for a prospective song of the year list. But it doesn’t make up for the rest of this effort.

Overall: The better groups from this genre are capable of putting a wide dynamic range into their sound while still being “brutal.” Earthborn Evolution lacks this element.

Rating: 2.0*

Review: Hazardeur – Rational Gaze

Location: Winterthur, Switzerland
Genre: Progressive Death Metal
Released: May 1st, 2014
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

When I think of progressive death metal, there’s two sets of groups that come to mind: French titans Gojira and Gorguts, which don’t use many symphonic elements; and early Opeth and Ne Obliviscaris, which feature all kinds of orchestration. Hazardeur joins the Frenchmen in the non-orchestral category. If that interests you (as it should), stop reading and just listen to this.

The debut effort (!) from Hazardeur is absolutely loaded with fantasic riffs and top-notch drumming that doesn’t overshadow the rest of the album’s sound. The production mix is crisp. I can’t think of any major flaws, other than the fact that some songs tend to meander a little bit, becoming a little too long as a result of their own creative process.

If it’s possible to pick the best songs on here, I’d start with “Voices Of The Devious,” with varying tempos ranging from slow to blistering. There’s a riff during the faster sections which surfaces a couple times that is utterly stellar. “Destined To Deceive” is a crushing number once you get past the short intro. “The Sixth Great Wave” is another nice track that has some swift riffs and blast beats.

Out of the other songs, the only ones that didn’t fully garner my attention were “Manipulating The Unconscious,” the album’s longest track which boasts a more traditional structure. “God Of Our Times,” despite being shorter, has a similar flaw. I consider these to be minor nitpicks in the grand scheme of things.

As an added bonus, the lyrics are easily understandable. Many songs deal with global political issues while not necessarily being partisan to one side or the other (read: Megadeth to the right, Ministry to the left); plugging in Napalm Death lyrics in place of Hazardeur’s would yield a similar result.

This is one of the rare albums in which I consider it very likely that others will pick a song that I wouldn’t have ranked in my top three as one of their favorites, and I’d say “You know what? That makes a lot of sense.” This should appeal to a wide spectrum of metal fans, and as of now I consider this to be among the best albums of the year with potential to ascend even higher.

Overall: I would expect to see Hazardeur drawing a big crowd at European metal festivals within the next two years.

Rating: 4.0*