REVIEW: Signal the Firing Squad – Abnegate

Artist: Signal the Firing Squad
Album: Abnegate
Rating: 5/5

Every so often, a release becomes so built up that it seems unfathomable that it could possibly live up to its own hype. This can happen for a variety of reasons–incessant touring and advertising, internet hype-beasting, absurdly early announcement, etcetera. All of these were true for Australian deathcore giants Signal the Firing Squad, and their sophomore full-length, Abnegate. With the cult success of their debut release, Earth Crisis, combined with intense amounts of local and online promotion, the quartet were facing a release which could either enter them into a figurative deathcore hall-of-fame along with several other Aussie acts, or condemn them to a status of impending mediocrity. Fortunately for Signal the Firing Squad–and the listener–Abnegate functions as the former, as it brilliantly showcases the stunning progression and crushing brutality of these Sunshine Coast shredders.

Abnegate is a verb, and can be defined as a rejection or renunciation of valuable or commonly perceived values or facts. Signal the Firing Squad’s second album of the same name does just that, devastating what the listener’s previous experiences with deathcore might be. Every track culminates in an ideal blending of blasting snare and shredding guitar, which can seamlessly toggle into slow, pounding, bass-heavy drumming and downtuned, muddy chugging. More often than not, while the drums shift into a soul-shaking breakdown with one of the guitars following suit, the other guitar continues with a shreddy, intricate riff–the second single of the album, “Into the Mouth of the Leviathan” displays this as well as any, with a heavily middle-eastern influenced solo, laid brilliantly over a groove-laden breakdown. While the bi-polar shift in instrumentation occurs, the vocals stay constant, with shrill, sky-scraping highs and deep, nearly subterranean lows keeping the listener not just engaged, but guessing as well.

While each song is structured to flow stunningly from technical and speedy to sludgy and heavy, the songs manage to keep a very individual feel to them. By maintaining a dynamic and staggered structure, no song sounds the same as the last, or has the listener wondering, “wait, didn’t I just hear that?” While these problems might plague the average deathcore release, this is just one of many instances in which Signal the Firing Squad prove that they are far and away beyond average.

Abnegate isn’t just a masterpiece of technical deathcore on a track-by-track basis, however. Featuring two featured vocalists (both of whom members of other deathcore giants, Obey the Brave and Boris the Blade) and two instrumental interludes, there is not one point where the album sounds or feels “same-y.” Both instrumental tracks, “Pillars of Creation” and “Synapse Failure” see the band including more elements which aren’t consistent through the bulk of the album–bass heavy riffs, electronic effects and tactful inclusion of a killswitch-style effect amongst them. These tracks provide the only sort of breathing room from the listener, who is otherwise constantly smothered by the in-your-face nature of Signal the Firing Squad’s lethal combination of technicality and crushing brutality. Singles “Abominator” and “Into the Mouth of the Leviathan” feature guests Alex Erian and Daniel Sharp (respectively) keep the album vocally fresh, even when vocalist Nathan is far from boring.

Heavy, dynamic, technical and fluid are all “by-the-book” adjectives for Signal the Firing Squad’s sophomore release, Abnegate. What those words don’t properly convey is the skin-tingling sensation given by the solos, the ear-blistering speed of the blast beats, or the skull-smashing, soul-rending nature of the groovy, yet sludgy breakdowns pervasive throughout the album. If you’ve been waiting for a slamming, technical, brutal deathcore release to sink your ears into, look no further than Signal the Firing Squad’s Abnegate.

By Connor Welsh/Eccentricism


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