Abyssal - Novit Enigma Dominus qui Sunt Emus (Iron Bonehead Productions)

Vinyl re-issue of a new classic
Release Date: 
31 Jan 2014 (All day)

A friend of mine had a dad who used to make himself "cowboy coffee," which basically amounted to a pour-over cup of joe, with the remaining grounds subsequently thrown into the bottom of the cup for that extra flavour and grit. For whatever reason, this seems a rather fitting analogy for the disgusting sounds proffered by Abyssal on Novit Enigma Dominus qui Sunt Emus, currently seeing a vinyl re-release via Iron Bonehead Productions

On the surface, Abyssal brew a strong cup of death, with guttural roars issuing forth from crushing riffs and alternately oppressive blast-beats and double-bass assaults. Elements of doom and blackness creep in, too. All the ingredients for a good ol' death metal album are there.

But there is more at work here than that. Having established their influences firmly within the death camp, Abyssal proceed to toss them all together and see what kinds of industrial-strength bad vibes they can conjure. For one, these songs are often meandering epics, rarely returning to a riff after it's been run into the ground. Rather, doomy chords will give way abruptly to wailing, blast-driven sprints to points unknown, as in Under the Wretched Sun of Hattin. Almost as disorienting in the context of the album are when the band render more traditional song structures, as on the relatively linear (and absolutely brutal) The Headless Serpent. Seriously, just listen to that goddamn track.

Truly freaky moments crop up within the oft-bewildering cacophony at play on this album. Low-end chords wrestle uneasily with dissonant and queasily shifting riffs that sound like Blut Aus Nord on 'Ludes. These passages forge strange bonds within the songs, providing time-warped bridges between equally disorienting worlds. What's also maddening is how compelling they are, and how unpredictably they arrive, only to disappear again. See The Tongue of the Demagogue for reference.

If I'm being honest, the album does drag a bit towards the end, with some atmospherics coming across heavy-handed (the sounds of babies crying, guys?), and some of the compositions a bit staid in a way that takes power from the overall statement of the album. But along with groups like Ævangelist, Abyssal seems to be on an enthralling path that eschews technicality and fist-meets-taint brutality in favour of fruits more atmospheric and ambiguous in nature. 

Seeing as this album was originally released in 2013, you may very well already be familiar with Abyssal. However, with Novit Enigma Dominus qui Sunt Emus now enjoying a double-vinyl reissue treatment, perhaps it's time to reacquaint yourself with them, and on archival-quality recordings no less. Drink up, cretins.