Finnish death metal has a reputation for being a touch left of center. While the more prolific Swedish acts of the early ’90s concentrated on stomping riffs and accentuated melodies, their Finnish counterparts often focused on bringing odd atmospherics and strange rhythms to the table. Many of these acts were also short-lived—perhaps none more so than Abhorrence, who existed for little more than twelve months and (until now) only ever released a single demo (1990) and a 13-minute, self-titled EP (1991). Today the band is best known, if at all, as the original outfit of Amorphis main man Tomi Koivusaari, who has since enjoyed an incredibly successful and varied career. Perhaps in response to the ever-broadening nature of his main act, Koivusaari and company resurrected Abhorrence back in 2012 for a series of reunion shows, which has now culminated in their second proper studio EP Megalohydrothalassophobic—a scintillating slab of Scandinavian death metal, albeit one with a surprisingly Swedish flavour.
Sonically, Megalohydrothalassophobic fits in far more with Dismember, Bolt Thrower and, especially, Bloodbath than it does with the likes of Demilitch, Demigod or Convulse. (Toilet ov Hell has a good Introduction to Finnish Death Metal for the curious and uninitiated.) “Anthem for the Anthropocene” kicks off the record with a riff remarkably similar to that of Entombed‘s “Blessed Be”, and there’s a centrality and melodic catchiness to a lot of the album’s other riffs that falls completely in line with the Swedish aesthetic. Rather than disconcert or oppress, the riffs on Megalohydrothalassophobic bulldoze their way into the listener’s ear, where they remain easily recalled. One could be very readily convinced that these songs were indeed material from a new Dismember or Bloodbath record, while the involvement of Koivusaari and that of current Paradise Lost and Vallenfyre drummer (Finnish born) Waltteri Väyrynen—the only non-original member featured on the record—lends the EP the kind of eventful gravitas usually reserved for the later act.
The album, whose title roughly translates as “the fear of massive objects underwater” is also a concept affair—combing aspects of Lovecraftian horror with the ecological philosophy of Timothy Morton. The combination of cosmic and environmental horror is far more direct than that concocted in, say, Jeff VanderMeer‘s Southern Reach trilogy (2014) or many other works of contemporary weird and climate fiction. What’s concocted instead is a delightfully pulpy take on the topics, leading to such gloriously B-movie sounding song titles as “The Four Billion Year Dream” and “Hyper Object Beneath the Waves”—the later of which can’t help but bring to mind Michael Chriton‘s literary opus Sphere (1987) and its spectacularly schlocky 1998 film adaptation. What Megalohydrothalassophobic is really all about, however, are the riffs; and in that department it undoubtedly delivers.
Like their first, Abhorrence’s second EP is a touch one-not. Nevertheless, it’s a good note and the Finns take too it with aplomb. “The Four Billion Year Dream” comes the closest to breaking the Swedish mold—being based around a slow, doomy riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on either of the first two Amorphis records (though certainly anywhere else in that band’s discography). Otherwise, it’s full-steam ahead riffing. “Hyperobject Beneath the Waves” is the album’s fastest offering, which once again brings to mind an early (though less readily identifiable) Swedish standard. It’s seven-minute closer “The End Has Already Happened”, however, that proves the EP’s most potent number. Beginning with a series of ominous, unsettling tones, the track builds upon its plodding main riff to deliver a cascade of driving, low-end death metal that rounds out the record in suitably apocalyptic fashion.
For a record only five tracks long—four really, discounting the intro—Megalohydrothalassophobic leaves a considerable impression. Nearly thirty years since their first outing, Abhorrence sound more accomplished and vital than ever. The EP will likely remain a pleasant curiosity, without the context to make it a cult underground staple in the manner of their first. Even so, it remains a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend twenty minutes and portends of a bright future should they choose to continue.
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Megalohydrothalassophobic comes out tomorrow, September 14, via Svart Records. Be sure to grab it if you’re looking for something to tide you over until the next Bloodbath album comes out.