Do you want to get your ass kicked? Do you want to snap your neck? There’s a record for that: the fourth full-length from Los Angeles death metal quartet Abysmal Dawn. The group marries the technicality of the genre with bone crunching riffs, and while Obsolescence doesn’t offer anything that is terribly innovative or new, and you could argue that there are far better metal musicians who can noodle with much greater virtuosity, boy, does it deliver the goods. Moments of quiet reflection? Few and far between. Lush acoustic guitar? This band takes one and smashes it over your head, rendering it unplayable. Pensive, thoughtful lyrics? Singer Charles Elliott will growl your ear off. Essentially, Abysmal Dawn have made a record for those who like the death metal sound, but have grown weary of its ever evolving sonics that push boundaries. If you want an honest to goodness nuts to the wall metal record with no baubles, then Obsolescence is the perfect ticket. It’s loud, it’s heavy, it’s fast, it’s furious — nothing more to it than that. No Ph.D. dissertations are being written here. It’s just very good, and offers visceral chills and spills. Without being dismissive in the least, this is simply an album to head bang wildly to. Painkillers to deal with the resulting whiplash are pretty much mandatory.
The thing that is absolutely staggering about this disc is the drums: electronically programmed at a machine gun fire pace. The sound is quite inhuman, as though demons were possessed in their playing. The sound crawls up somewhere deep inside of you and causes heart palpitations. That speed creates an experience that is otherworldly, one that will definitely get the head a noddin’. And there’s little opportunity to catch one’s breath, which is what makes the breakdowns so memorable. When they come, they offer a brief respite from the frantic nature of this LP. And it’s in those moments where tasty guitar licks come to the fore, as on opening track “Human Obsolescence”, where the solo feels as though it has been lifted from ’80s-style glam metal. Considering the history of that music scene, it’s no surprise that these guys hail from LA. They pay homage to their forebearers quite nicely, and it’s those subtle nods that evoke a nostalgic pleasantness. However, if you’re a millennial and have no idea of metal’s past, you can simply just enjoy this album on a mindless, base level — and there’s plenty of that to go around. The whole record is one grueling riff after another, and the beats rarely relent. In that sense, the album may just gobsmack you. There’s just so much to admire and enjoy that Obsolescence is probably one of the more gratifying listens as far as metal goes this year. Again, there’s no fertile ground that is being unearthed, but there’s just so much excitement to be garnered from this particular disc that it doesn’t really matter.
However, if you’re looking for something to draw attention to or emphasize, there’s a surprise. My absolute favorite moment comes at the very end of the record, and is actually listed as a bonus track. “Night’s Blood” is a seven-minute thrashfest where some subtlety and nuance comes to the fore. There are movements within movements within the song, proving that Abysmal Dawn can do more than simply just metal out. It swiftly moves from tree branch to tree branch, offering an air of unpredictability on a platter that is, basically, fairly conventional. One wonders why this was relegated as a hidden piece, probably because it is a little unlike what has preceded it, but it’s incredible, especially when everything drops away and a lone classical guitar plucks itself gently at around the three-minute mark. Considering that that kind of sound isn’t really evident elsewhere, the song is lifted to a sterling height. The pace in this section also is somewhat slowed down from the remainder of the material, at least at times, clearly pointing the way towards Abysmal Dawn’s next album. If “Night’s Blood” is any indication, there is good material somewhere on the horizon from this outfit. It really makes it clear that the band is headed into a direction that is a bit more experimental without losing their ability to simply shred. That is an electrifying proposition.
What more needs to be said? While Abysmal Dawn don’t really break any rules, Obsolescence is a record that is born from chaos and is nuclear-powered in terms of its merciless aural assault on the listener. See these guys live, and I would suspect that many a mosh pit is guaranteed to break out. If that doesn’t give you a suggestion as to how much of a good time this LP is, I don’t know what else to say. The guitars are suitably menacing, the drums run as though they’re being chased by a hobgoblin, and the vocals sound so deep that it is as though the earth has opened up and they are emanating from the deep. Wheels are not being reinvented, nothing is particularly unique, and Abysmal Dawn aren’t going to win awards for originality and daring. That’s nothing to scoff at though, particularly when the record is as giddy as it is. Obsolescence is locked into a fairly tight groove, and the musicianship is vaunted. Take it simply for what it is: nothing that’s going to cause anyone to rethink their approach to metal. It’s just a pretty good album to spend some time with. If you bemoan the fact that the metal genre is getting more and more unlistenable due to groups trying to push beyond music into something else entirely, then this will fit the bill. Particularly if you like your metal to move at such ruthless speeds that it may, indeed, cause a spinal injury from trying to keep up.