Branding is a weird concept when it comes to death metal. How does a band ensure their sound is instantly recognisable in a world full of Soundalikes, all trying to blast faster, groove harder, and shred more than the rest? Fuck knows. If you really need the answer to that question – ask Sven de Caluwe. The throat destroying goretrepreneur has been front of stage for Aborted for nearly 25 years, building teams of wildly talented musicians around his brand and creating some of the most consistently pulverising death metal going. This year’s TerrorVision is no different, instead, it has gone one further. After one of the most prolific spells of releases in the band’s history, this latest full-length makes previous efforts look like tunes from a musical – like Cats, but all the cats have been skinned, gutted, and strung up like awful festive ornaments.
Instantly recognisable as an Aborted record, TerrorVision piles on the crisp, grinding death metal that their last few releases have just about perfected. “Squalor Opera” and “Deep Red” are two cuts that could have lived quite comfortably on The Necrotic Manifesto or Retrogore (or either of the EPs that came out around the same time – seriously, this band shits out death metal releases). The twin guitar attack hasn’t been utilised more effectively on a death metal record in some time, with harmonising passages and layered strings providing a suitably macabre element underneath the crushing bellows of Caluwe. He’s the Bruce Dickinson of death metal, his guitarists the double-pronged weapon cutting through the bedlam of blast beats and furiously plucked bass. This shouldn’t be news for most. Aborted fucking shred.
What will surprise most, however, is the complete lack of gory, nasty horror soundbites and samples. Anyone hoping for more quotes from Hobo With A Shotgun will be disappointed, I’m afraid. Aborted instead use their instruments to build a sort of John Carpenter meets Danny Elfman atmosphere throughout TerrorVision. The obligatory instrumental introduction sets the scene for the rest of the record; the keys, synths, and strings mapping out evil textures underneath the high-velocity, high-impact destruction above. “Visceral Despondency” is the anchor track of the record, standing out among the more typically Aborted tracks due to the prominence of the Carpenter-Elfman dark magic peppered throughout the track. It’s a little disappointing not hearing someone lick their lips before discussing their preferred dissection methods, but TerrorVision feels complete without the shlock and shock.
The current iteration of Aborted is without a doubt the most talented yet. Ken Bedene is an absolute monster behind the kit and, if my Internet Detective skills have served me well, he is also responsible for much of the music on TerrorVision. His partnership with the stringed section of the band is tighter than piano wire strung across a playschool corridor, shown no more prominently than in the wonderfully paced “Exquisite Covinous Drama”. The riffs on this one build and dance around some of Bedene’s signature cymbal work and double-kick splattergun bursts, coming to a head in an almost serene (for Aborted, anyway) section where thumping kicks push an almost Cradle of Filth (steady, in a good way) midsection into yet another ripping solo from Mendel bij de Leij. His lead work in Aborted has always been tasteful for death metal, but on TerrorVision he really lets loose with some giant, shrieking solos. They’re dynamic and playful but still grim and deviant – the perfect flourish for a record this moreish and monstrous.
On the back of two full-lengths and two EPs in three years, most in the know expected the new Aborted to be great. I don’t think as many people expected TerrorVision to be the perfect example of modern death metal that it is. It might be the tenth LP carrying the Aborted name but it sounds as fresh as anything else out there in the wider world of death, deathgrind, and horror-influenced music. Far more subtle than previous efforts, TerrorVision feels like the perfect death metal rock-opera that hasn’t been written, employing impeccable instrumentation to create a unique world within a world. It might appear terrifying from the outside, but chances are most would enjoy living in this bizarre, monstrous environment that Caluwe and co. have created. It totally succeeds at pulling the listener out of their reality, even if just for a half hour. Slap this in your ears and say “Farewell To The Flesh”.