Artist: Humanity’s Last Breath
Most of the time, when a band is described as “heavy” as opposed to the use of a conventional genre label, I tend to sigh with the same kind of “oh, it’s one of those bands” demeanor. This is because, most of the time, when a band describes themselves as “heavy” as opposed to a typical style of music, what they really mean are “low breakdowns with guitars that sound like they were strung with telephone wire and recorded through a toaster.”
Is this always right? No, certainly not—an example would be ultra-heavy juggernauts, Humanity’s Last Breath. While the act may not self-describe themselves as just “heavy,” I chose to lead with that because, in earnest, there is no other way to describe them. This has been true since their inception, brilliantly blending brutalizing deathcore with atmospheric and blackened death metal both. Are they just deathcore, or just blackened-something-or-other? No. They’re absolutely relentless, unstoppable, ruthless, bloodthirsty and so on. They’re heavy as all Hell, and that is as true with their 2019 full-length record, Abyssal, as it ever has been.
Abyssal’s name is rightfully earned. Humanity’s Last Breath have worked tirelessly to create one of the most bleak and dismal sounding records in recent history, and with their 2019 goliath, they have succeeded. Every aspect of Abyssal’s instrumentation feels as though it were forged from pure, unfiltered darkness. From the looming opening chugs of “Abyssal Mouth,” through “Bone Dust” and “Dödgud,” the band use everything in their arsenal to ensure that the listener feels thoroughly smothered by oppressive aggression. Some songs—“Fradga” and “Abyssal Mouth”—rely less on atmosphere and more on overt heaviness to get their point across. “Fradga” highlights this especially, utilizing an alternating assault of blistering speed and sludgy, slow brutality to bewilder the listener. Other songs, like “Being” or the aptly named “Pulsating Black” include more atmosphere and ambience—the same elements that lend an almost blackened hue to several sections of Abyssal. Here, the drums are cantankerous, blasting away while droning, dreary fretwork reigns supreme, supported by thick, beefy and unwavering bass. These songs, for as dense as they are, feel huge and dwarf the listener as if they were a tangible tower of stone and steel. Perhaps that’s what Humanity’s Last Breath do best—not just craft heaviness, but craft heaviness that simply feels massive, as all of Abyssal undoubtedly does.
Just as Abyssal’s instrumentation has a penchant for the sprawling and abrasive, as do Humanity’s Last Breath’s vocal element. The band’s voice is monstrous, dominating much of the already immense soundscape. “Abyssal Mouth” stands as one of the strongest examples of this, with an eerie and catchy chorus that sharply contrasts the grisly, guttural nature of the remainder of the band’s style and dynamic. Throughout Abyssal, the listener is bombarded by predominantly low, gritty bellows that rarely reach skyward as shrill screeches or eerie, goosebump-inducing sung portions. “Bone Dust” is an amazing example of the former, while “Abyssal Mouth” and “Bursting Bowel of Tellus” run the entire gamut, including bits and pieces of the entire (you guessed it—immense) variety of vocals present on Abyssal. While the vocal technicality in and of itself might not be an overt selling point for the record, it remains masterfully written and smooth as butter, all while boasting impressive consistency and moments that even serve as catchy—something rare on records this unfathomably dense.
If there was to be a “problem” with Abyssal, it would be just that—the density. Abyssal isn’t for the faint of heart or otherwise uninitiated. Just like the remainder of Humanity’s Last Breath’s discography, Abyssal is not an “easy” listen. Note—this isn’t to say it isn’t fun, energetic or engaging—it just is so God damned heavy that I wouldn’t even judge someone for needing to take a break from it. Abyssal is the darkest and most devastating components of progressive metalcore, deathcore, doom metal, sludge and black metal twisted into one crushing chimera; while it may be dense, it is written to be dense. When it comes to Abyssal, it seems to have only one goal: crush the living shit out of all who listen to it.
For Fans Of: Vildhartja, Dark Throne, Black Tongue, Meshuggah
By: Connor Welsh