Artist: A Night in the Abyss
There are countless stories and tales about the underworld—a looming city where the dead not only dwell, but reign. We have stories condemning the living dead and their cities of disease and disgust just as we stories glorifying them, giving the quest to uncover living hell robust, cinematic qualities that seem to lessen the inherent danger that would accompany the actual discovery of such a place.
What would really happen if we were to awake a city of the dead—if we were to shine a light into the pupil of Hell’s eye? Take a listen to A Night in the Abyss’ latest album, Necropolis. A stunning amalgamation of ultra-aggressive heaviness, dense and disastrous technicality and monstrous, moody atmosphere, Necropolis is the culmination of countless styles of heavy music—from straightforward deathcore to melodic black metal and symphonic death metal—comprehensively crushing the listener mentally, emotionally and physically beneath an oppressive onslaught of masterfully composed and played extreme music.
While A Night in the Abyss refer to themselves in a rather inauspicious manner as “blackened deathcore/tech death,” the truth is much more complex and far more deserving of an in-depth analysis. This cruel and unusual quintet of creative musicians use everything at their disposal to drag the listener through a mile of shattered glass with every track—beginning with percussionist Adam Lewis. From the first lacerating patterns and grisly grooves of “Aborted Idol,” Lewis lets loose with a cannon-like kick drum that hits with the intensity of a tank shell but the speed and punch of a kickboxing kangaroo. Lewis confidently strides the line between obscene technicality (abundant on “Nepotism” and the ending of “Cold Hearted Comeuppance”) and straightforward, punchy aggression (“The Human Condition” shows this off quite well). Where Lewis’ speedier moments capture the listener’s attention, his more spacious and simplified patterns allow bassist Reuben Bescoby to assist in building towering bastions of blackened atmosphere. Together, Bescoby and Lewis take moments like the atmosphere abundant in “Pavor Nocturnas” and build upon it, with Bescoby’s beefy bass winding in to and out of Lewis’ fleet footwork, serving as a stellar foundation for the furious fretwork provided by guitarists Jack Higgs and Chris Homer. Together, Higgs and Homer are simply unstoppable. Higgs’ work handling both ruthlessly technical riffs and stellar symphonic arrangements is nothing short of mind-boggling—and if you aren’t sold by the end of “Aborted Idol,” you will be by the end of “Nepotism,” which is four and a half minutes of sheer incineration. Higgs and Homer work diligently throughout Necropolis to create heaviness that doesn’t rely on monotonous breakdowns and beefy chugs. Make no mistake—their album certainly knows how to crush bones—however much of Necropolis’ heaviness comes from contrasting ethereal harmonies and symphonic elements with gritty, shreddy technicality that rips flesh from bone without relent or remorse.
Just as A Night in the Abyss’ instrumentation crafts towering skyscrapers and bottomless ravines in a diverse and dynamic soundscape, the band’s vocal element brings to life the shrieks, screams and shouts of thousands of dead given new life. Frontman Josh Hillier is savvy with all manners of shrill shrieks and guttural bellows, adding even more variety to a release already packed with a plethora of styles and sounds to offer. From “Aborted Idol” to “A Family Crucifixion,” Hillier goes absolutely nuts, capturing more than enough intensity to give the evil atmosphere and murderous misanthropy on Necropolis an energy so vivid it becomes almost tangible. “Pestilence” sees Hillier nearing his best—just as “Nepotism” and “Cold Hearted Comeuppance” does; in fact, the entire release serves beautifully as a greatest-hits reel for Hillier’s immense vocals. Proficient in dizzying patterns and a range that borders on legendary, Hillier is a figurehead for an already promising band—the figurative icing on the cake that makes A Night in the Abyss more than worth the listener’s while.
While A Night in the Abyss do a top-notch job of drawing from several styles of heavy music, there will be those that feel that certain songs—especially those with more melodic influence—lack a “climax” without their penchant for the deathcore staple: the breakdown. Where the top half of Necropolis oscillates between tech-laden riffs and low, gritty grooves that devolve into devastating breakdowns, songs like “Pavor Nocturnas” and “Gaia” are more full and anthemic songs that distance themselves from “-core” influence. Ultimately, this is a positive in the grand scheme of the album: riff-hungry metalheads who bore easily of chugs and grooves will find solace in these songs; however those that live for spinkicking and windmilling will be at a loss. So, while Necropolis has something for everyone—in fact, most songs have something for everyone—some of the album’s later tracks seem to lack a conventional “release” for the minutes of build-up they boast. What is true of Necropolis is that, much akin to its name, it is like a city: sprawling, diverse and dense with detail, as every song has several nooks and crannies, featuring figurative Easter eggs that, for the avid heavy music enthusiast, make the album more enjoyable after each listen.
For Fans Of: Make Them Suffer, A Trust Unclean, Osiah, Nexilva
By: Connor Welsh