A seeker of truth risks life and limb to make their way up a sacred mountain in hopes of eventually reaching a solitary guru for consultation and enlightenment. After a treacherous journey, the mountain’s peak finally falls into sight…
Guru: “Welcome, weary traveler. Your journey has been filled with hardships, but now you have finally reached the top of the world. What single question would you ask of me?”
Seeker: “Guru… What… What is the difference between Finnish and Swedish death metal?”
Well, obviously there’s a little more to it than just that, but when you consider how far death metal bands such as Grave, Dismember/Carnage, Nihilist/Entombed, Therion, Treblinka/Tiamat, Unleashed, et. al. carried the ball over the years compared to the crews most would consider to be Finland’s heavy hitters along a similar timeline, the game ain’t even close. Of the early Finnish progenitors, only Amorphis, Disgrace, Sentenced and Xysma have managed to release five or more full-lengths, and none of them endured the years by sticking even close to death metal. Much of the Swedish faction strayed as well, but there really is no Finnish version of Grave, Dismember or Unleashed. Bands such as Convulse, Demigod, Adramelech, Purtenance and, to a much lesser extent, Scum played a large role in the early development of the Finnish side of death by releasing seminal records in the early/mid 90s, but four of those five eventually took ten or more years between full-length releases, and only Adramelech managed to not call it quits at some point in their career.
Where Finland truly excelled, however, was deeper into the underground where bands existed that only managed to release a handful of demos and EPs, and perhaps a single full-length—bands that, for any number of reasons, could never quite commit to taking it to the next level. It is here where dirty rotters such as Funebre, Demilich, Mordicus, Necropsy, Rippikoulu, Depravity, Cartilage, Phlegethon, Lubricant, and Interment prevailed, and it is also where Abhorrence reigned.
As was the case for a number of their fellow countrymen in those earliest of death metal days, Abhorrence essentially skipped the thrash infusion in favor of jumping straight for the throat with an obscenely heavy, grinding punch that made it clear that the tape-trading movement had introduced pearls such as the earliest releases from Earache Records into the fertile lands of Finland. 1990’s Vulgar Necrolatry Demo had all the snarl and scrape of the early Grindcrusher Comp bands, but Abhorrence’s emphasis on showcasing an abundance of slowness further bolstered by tractor-heavy riffs and an absolutely crumbling bass sound—something that was even more underscored with their 1991 self-titled EP (which, oddly enough, was recorded by Timo Tolkki of Stratovarius fame)—was even more in line with releases like Blood’s incredible Impulse to Destroy (1989) or Rottrevore’s The Epitome of Pantalgia Demo (1990). To this day, “Holy Laws of Pain” remains one of the heaviest moments in death metal’s history.
But that was basically it from Abhorrence. At least for a long while. They, like many others, got caught up in a Seraphic Decay Records rip-off disaster, shut everything down, and Tomi Koivusaari went on to join Amorphis as their vocalist/2nd guitarist in 1990. Then, the long sleep…
Amen, Mr. Heine. Amen, old boy. Although, as long as we’re cursed with birth, we might as well make something good of it. As for the fellows in Abhorrence, the fine people at Svart Records stirred the beast in 2012 with a compilation reissue of everything they’d done to date, so a decision was eventually made to give things another go with a quick run of shows, the first of which was performed under the suitable guise of “Bob Horrence.” From there, Svart additionally released a live recording of the band’s performance at the 2013 Tuska Open Air festival, and now, after a relatively brief-by-Cthulhu-standards 27-year sleep, we’re finally ready for some brand new Abhorrence material in the form of the modestly titled Megalohydrothalassophobic EP.
Hey you, Magellan. You, with the face. Get out of the damned ocean. The ocean is completely terrifying. Sure, it seems lovely enough, with its welcoming edges and playful sea spray that lures you into its frisky perimeter. But once you’re in, ladies and laddies, the ocean desperately wants to pull you under. The ocean wants nothing more than to inhale nature’s most distasteful mistake and eventually spit their bleached, useless bones against a forgotten and towering crag. We have done wrong by the ocean, and the ocean will do great and terrible wrongs to us.
Well, it’s just a theory—maybe we’ll just get hit by a wayward meteor that signals the end of the human race. Either way, we suck and our time is nearly up.
The EP starts off, as is customary, with a brief and atmospheric intro. Following this, Megalohydrothalassophobic sounds precisely as one might hope a new Abhorrence recording would sound in 2018: sometimes slow, sometimes fast, sometimes weird and always curiously fun, but with the added benefit of a big-boy modern production. Hell, that could be the only sticking point for some of the grumpier, more shambling barbarians left in the crowd—not enough mud left on the flaps. It’s still dirty, though, and it doesn’t take very long for “Anthem for the Anthropocene” to remind us why we’re here… The riffs.
The song has an undeniable swagger and panache, and that filthy riff that breaks out around the 2:45 mark is husky enough to sprout a burly beard on a newborn baby girl, so keep them kids in the other room if you’re interested in avoiding stares the next time you’re at the Jumpity Bumpity Indoor Play Space after school.
The rest of the menu offers up a similarly riffy smorgasbord, but with a few more bends and twists in terms of pace and temperament. “The Four Billion Year Dream” kicks off slow and doomy, eventually speeds off like a pissed Megalodon, and then settles into one of 2018’s most luscious grooves around 2:40, while its follow-up, “Hyperobject Beneath the Waves,” delivers the EP’s angriest punch before Kolehmainen ushers in a notably dark second half after barking “I…DROWN” around its midpoint.
And finally, closer “The End Has Already Happened” flaunts a particularly doomy & grim mood that’s knotted together by a strange, deeply reverbed riff that fades in and out of the picture and sounds as if it would be right at home bouncing off the walls of a deteriorating submarine as it slowly slips into an endless, black abyss. But then, you already knew that, because…the end…has already happened?
Maybe that bloody Guru was just plain wrong. After all, what shows a greater commitment to death metal: 1) coming out of the gate strong and then allowing umpteen squirrels to enter the picture from conceivably every angle before coming back to the death metal fold again a decade-and-a-half later (e.g. Paradise Lost), 2) Forging a strong death metal crux at the onset and then allowing said crux to degrade over a long, slow stretch of years (e.g. oh-so-many bands), or 3) Doing death metal well early on, lying dormant, and then doing death metal well again decades later.
Or maybe this is more “commitment” in a sense that death metal bands from Finland often seem(ed) in need of a laminated pass for repeated commitment into the local psych ward. The Finnish side of the fence always seemed weirder, wilier and more morbidly playful about their approach to death metal’s tenets, and Megalohydrothalassophobic maintains that inclination.
The conclusion is pretty simple: We were lucky to have Abhorrence around in the early 90s, and we’re lucky to have them around again in 2018, even if Megalohydrothalassophobic ends up being the last thing we get before the Earth is swallowed whole by Lu-Kthu.