As with the oceanic void of Earth’s murkiest depths to which their name alludes, Abyssal’s existence is steeped in a thick layer of mystery. Working in anonymity under the name G.D.C., the UK based mastermind behind Abyssal has been conjuring up some of the most dense, cavernous Incantation worship since sequential punishers Denouement (2012) and Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius (2013) invigorated the death metal underground. In the couple of years since G.D.C.’s debut, he has seemingly softened his affinity for the allure of anonymity, demonstrated by his penning a deal with Profound Lore and enlisting Finnish drummer Timo Häkkinen to record session percussion. The result of this consummation in Abyssal’s next chapter is Antikatastaseis, an immediate highlight in both the band’s discography and this year’s list of essential death metal offerings.
It may be tempting to brand Abyssal with comparisons to Oceania’s fraternal blackened death metal twins Portal and Ulcerate, but Antikatastaseis presents a slightly contrasting narrative. Neither as viscous as Portal nor as unblemished as Ulcerate, the path forged by Abyssal finds a balance between impenetrably dismal atmospheres and tight, pummeling brutality. Moments after opener “I Am the Alpha and the Omega” commences, the first of many walloping blast beats pierces through a fog of dizzying tremolos which accent suffocating heaviness with eerie, discordant chord progressions. Häkkinen’s performance on the album is impeccable and meshes seamlessly with the numerous transitions and landscapes that G.D.C. explores.
These voyages most notably manifest into numerous shades of uplifting melody that would seem to bastardize Abyssal’s ethos if they were not executed so flawlessly. While beginning as a foreboding final dirge, “Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum…” ventures into a passage of stark emotional complexity that causes the listener to ponder which post-purgatory destination the track is yearning for. This is not an isolated incident, as numerous other moments on the album reflect a noticeably somber rendition of melody. Penultimate track “Chrysalis” is a noteworthy example, particularly due to how naturally the track slips into melodic tones and then pulls them back into Abyssal’s standard assault.
There is really no overarching issue with Antikatastaseis, save for one unfortunate compositional decision within the track “Veil of Transcendence.” Nearly everything about this track is immaculate; every bit of praise presented in the previous paragraphs is operating to full capacity throughout the nearly twelve minute runtime. However, near the halfway mark, the music fades briefly to allow for a haunting music box melody to emerge from the murk. This would have been a perfect segue for the following sonic flurry, but when Abyssal returns during the second half of the track, the music box continues to play, producing a somewhat odd effect. Despite being mostly buried in the mix, the effect remains as distant annoyance, sometimes clashing severely with the remainder of the music while providing slight positive detailing at other moments. Unfortunately, the trend is more towards the former point, causing a notable blow to an otherwise great track.
One passage cannot overshadow an album’s worth of brilliance, though, and labeling Antikatastaseis as anything short of a triumph would misrepresent what Abyssal have accomplished here. Despite G.D.C.’s preference to lurk in the shadows, the same can longer be said of his project, as Antikatastaseis should leave no doubt that Abyssal deserves to be considered in casual conversation covering the best current blackened death metal acts. Perhaps the only way G.D.C. could enhance this offering is to drag it into sunlight; such a collection of sounds necessitates a live show simulating the grandest of Left-Hand Path rituals.
Abyssal’s Antikatastaseis gets…