Not Your Typical Death/Doom: Abyssic with “High the Memory”

Within the cookie cutter world of metal subgenres, there are instances where bands stand (sometimes tall, sometimes not) above the contemporary crowd. Death/doom outfit Abyssic are certainly contenders for this category as their use of upright bass, keyboards, and harmonious chords deliver a truly unique listening experience. Check this out.

Death/doom has always bored me. I tried to jump aboard the hype train last year for Hooded Menace’s massively-anticipated Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed, but I just couldn’t do it. In all honesty, I really feel like that release was close to “clicking” for me, but sadly nothing came of it; merely another short depressing fling. I really dug her horror vibe, too.

The foundations of Metal Megalomania were mainly built upon the desire to be heard, as I grew tired of mumbling to myself while spinning obscure death metal albums. Well, the mumbling has more or less stayed the same, but now its just transcribed into a written format. A coincidence of these online publishing shenanigans is that I get to sink my teeth into music that would otherwise go unnoticed, and thus my music collection has grown tremendously, in reverse fashion to that of my wallet, which has shrunken tremendously.

The albums I have never reviewed favourably are those of the death/doom flavour. Many warriors have trodden through the gauntlet, each fighting half-heartedly, plagued by limp arms and incurable depression. Mortuous’ Through Wilderness, Innumerable Forms’ Punishment in Flesh, and more recently, Ossuarium’s Living Tomb, to name a few, have fallen victim to a reviewer’s close-mindedness and repulsive reactions to change. Well, maybe I’m not that dramatic, I really just haven’t been able to get into death/doom. Actually, I kind of dug the new Ossuarium, but that’s one of the subgenre’s atypical releases, so it doesn’t really count.

Death metal, characterised by knuckle-dragging drum patterns, thick riffs, and sewer-bound vocals, attracts a fetid bunch who’s lives reside in all aspects within the tropes and stereotypes of what is known as the death metal fan. Doom metal, characterised by soaring but equally sorrowful vocals, long song lengths, and a general depressive atmosphere, attracts boring people, I guess, I don’t know. Someone eventually decided to blend the two styles (some would argue that Autopsy’s Severed Survival was the first, but I really like that album, so it can’t be death/doom), except they threw out death metal’s grossness and doom metal’s small amount of life that it was trying so desperately hard to cling on to. A bastardized history, sure, but Napoleon was actually pretty tall, so I can’t be that far from the truth.

Alas this makeshift “review” has reached half of its expected wordcount and I haven’t even included the album name anywhere yet. While the jumbled thoughts lain before this paragraph aren’t necessarily complete word vomit, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t dreading this review. Well, I’m not really dreading it (you might ask yourself, “why did the author say one thing then immediately say he didn’t mean it? Especially when he is in utmost control of the words laid before me?”, and I don’t really have an answer, which again raises the question as to why I’m typing this now, but we’ve reached 650 words, so I guess this is content?). To be completely honest, I really just don’t know what to talk about. But here goes.

This is fairly standard death/doom overlaid (underlaid?), erm, accented, rather, with an orgy of harmonies. You’ve got the standard Unholy Trinity of guttural vocals, guitars/bass, and percussion, however, Abyssic has decided to throw quite the slew of unorthodox instruments into the mix. This is all really cool, it was just done in a fashion that makes the music drag on even longer. I don’t want to say that these unique inclusions don’t add anything to the music, because they certainly do, they just weren’t implemented in a manner that caters to my tastes (which already don’t lean favourably to the applied subgenre).

High the Memory opens with “Adornation,” a shorter number in comparison to the handful of tracks that follow. This was a great demonstration of a more fast-paced death/doom sound accented by harmonious arrangements. The song builds up alongside some horns, gets faster towards the end, and ultimately expands in a meaningful way. I liked this opening number.

This is great and all, but the next four tracks range from 12 to 20 minutes in length (most of which leaning towards the longer end of the spectrum), and they really drag on. There’s not a lot of actual instrumental substance here, I really just feel like I’m listening to the same thing over and over again. The long guitar strums, the mostly one-dimensional vocals, and the lack of speed work together to entrap me. That’s right, I’m the victim here. Furthermore, these longer songs balance between focusing on the aforementioned Unholy Trinity and the other selection of instruments, and there are some sections reaching upwards of seven minutes in length where all you’re hearing are drawn-out harmonies with seemingly little variation. Also, when the more traditional guttural vocals finally jut in, there feels like little transition between the two sections (or the section prior was one really long transition, either way it falls flat). I’m specifically talking about “High the Memory” here, but the other tracks more or less follow a similar format.

There’s not a whole lot more to it, unfortunately, at least to my ears. Once again, death/doom isn’t my thing, so while my criticism may make sense within my world, the traditional death/doom fan (if you ever catch one outside in the sun) might adore this. Host Blayne Smith of YouTube’s BangerTV, a Canadian metal-oriented review program, is one of these fans, so I tapped into his Twitch stream (@metalcomedy) to inquire about the subgenre with a true believer.

He described death/doom as a marriage between some elements of death metal, and some elements of doom metal, of which create a music focused on atmosphere more-so than, say, technicality. Other chat members seemed to agree with this, with the essence here being atmosphere, which is certainly conveyed well within this style of music, even to a further extent with Abyssic’s style. We all eventually came to the conclusion that my tastes lean towards time signature changes, variety, and aggression, which are three elements largely not associated with death/doom. This all makes sense, considering how funeral doom and other atmospheric styles like melodic black metal have never been featured heavily in my playlists. Thus this “review” of High the Memory is essentially worthless, but we all knew that from the very beginning.

I’m going to take a break from the subgenre as I’ve come to finalize my decision with it. While I was certainly on the path to figuring out exactly why death/doom wasn’t taking to me, Blayne and his comment comrades really helped me sort my tastes out. Perhaps I’ll revisit Ossuarium Silhouettes Unhallowed as it’s the piece I most enjoyed within this flavour of metal, but that will only occur far down the road.

That’s it for me. Special cheers to Blayne and his rag-tag group of bandits; check out his video game streams as well as BangerTV on YouTube; its pretty much what I do but in video format and far more entertaining.

In terms of a final verdict, my typical scoring finale is not welcome here due to the circumstances outlined above. I will reiterate the fact that fans of the subgenre will definitely take to Abyssic’s new album, and the harmonics are certainly quite impressive. Cheers to atmosphere.

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