Oakland, California’s Abstracter have been digging themselves a hole since 2012. Their debut album, Tomb Of Feathers, was but scratching at the topsoil like edging a grave plot with a 48″ Wood Handle Transfer Shovel (available at Home Depot). Of course, when beginning to dig one’s own grave, the reality of the terror doesn’t quite hit until one really breaks the surface and gets deeper into the earth and further from light. But we’ll get there in a minute. The band’s beginnings were mostly as a sludge band, taking cues from the mighty Neurosis as the early basis for their sound–albeit a sound with a certain penchant for darkness. As Abstracter began to dig their grave a little deeper, they became more soot-and-grime ridden. The surface that Tomb only scratched at was more fully realized on the band’s sophomore, Wound Empire. The sludge elements remained, but there was a hellfire that was ignited between the two albums. Wound Empire sounds more blackened, bleak, and hate-fueled. Tomb felt more introspective and angst-laden, while Wound Empire marked a more extraverted, focused attack.
The band’s fourth and most recent full-length, Abominion, is their most animalistic endeavor yet. It’s as though Abstracter have dug into molten magma–the heat off of the smoldering of Abstracter’s calculated suspense simply glows thanks to the production of Greg Wilkinson. A longtime collaborator with the band, and the man behind much of the rich, moss-ridden cavernous sounds of contemporary extreme metal (Undergang, Brainoil, Hyperdontia, Ulthar, Necrot, Ossuarium, Vastum, Leather Glove, Phrenelith, Ripped To Shreds,Void Omina, Minenwerfer, Acephalix, Body Void, Ulthar, Fetid, Warp Chamber; to name but a few) has done a masterful job at carving the band’s sound out of the darkness. The gratuitous use of reverb while allowing open space between the layers of vocals, instrumentation, and noise evokes a feeling of weightlessness in a bottomlessness cavern of darkness.
Of course, Wilkinson can only be as good as the raw materials he’s dealt, and Abstracter deliver with every bit of blood, sweat, and gravedirt accounted for. Abominion excels in pacing. Even the slow, trudging, drawn out segments at the album’s opener pull the listener in with captivating suspense before smacking them with a 48″ Razor Back Wood Handled Shovel (available at Home Depot) as the band kicks into some blistering blasts. The vocals sit at the dead center of the chaos, yet they’re hardly a sturdy handle to grasp. The harrowing snarl bellows corruption across the ever-fluid pacing between the weighted anticipation of the labored slow tempos to the feral, antagonistic blasts. Somewhere in between, Abstracter hit a groove between their labors of extinction.
The hypnotic dirge at the center of “Warhead Twilight” is kept engrossing by the softer, ominous leads strumming behind the arduous pace, the feedback of noise being carefully manipulated in the background to add to that sense of depth that Wilkenson brings out so well in the band. The escalation to blasting drums feels organic: It’s so easy to become lost in the opioid comfort of repetition that the shift to violence seems like an inescapable conclusion. The rough bashing of chords echos across like a labored breath across the entirety of Abominion, making tracks like “Abyss Above” feel much more like an abyss “so below.” The steady rise as the resounding pound of the kick drums pick up, the introduction of a blaze that builds as the swirling void of the sonic backdrop remains constant–it all feels apocalyptic and helpless to fight against.
And yet, Abstracter keep on digging.
Abominion is some of the band’s finest work to date. An engulfing work of black/doom, Abstracter have honed their sound from record to record in a way that feels as sweat-wrenchingly organic, psychologically inescapable, and torturously suffocating as the harrowing nightmare of digging one’s own grave. With each record inching closer to a feel of absolute oblivion, their fourth full-length effort delves even further. It’s as though the band are uncovering something putrid and being forced to sally forth, breathing the stench as it stings the nostrils with repugnant toxicity. Abominion strikes with a Razor-Back 5 lb. Pick Mattock (also available at Home Depot) into the blackest and most pungent of the oils of organic decay. Engulfed by smoldering, inextinguishable hellfire, these oils become the noxious fuel of nightmares.