Saturday, May 15, 2010

Abscess - Tormented

Abscess - Tormented
2001, Necropolis Records

Over the course of this album's quick thirteen songs and thirty-four minutes, there are occasional bursts of genuine inspiration and enthusiasm that of course recall Danny Coralles and Chris Reifert's shared past in Autopsy. That can be counted on, and when you read the advertisements for this album that splash Autopsy's name all over the place, you are not really being lied to, surprisingly enough. A few of these songs do sound like the prime era of that fantastic band, but they in no way (as I see it) justify people thinking of this as some kind of Autopsy comeback. It just isn't so...for one thing, Eric Cutler isn't here, and his contributions would be vital to any kind of reunion...

Instead of Cutler we have Clint Bower, from the sadly underrated band Hexx, which used to be on Wild Rags Records a long time ago, and who I was actually fortunate enough to see play live in Houston, supporting (I believe) Sadus, about ten years in the past...in any case Clint is in good form here, and if he doesn't exactly add the brilliance that Cutler would have probably brought to 'Tormented', he doesn't take away anything either...I'm sure he fits into this band very well...

Also appearing here on bass, I believe, is Joe Allen, from the proto-black metal band Von...

As for the music, this is pretty much what you'd expect from these guys: choppy, ravaging, corrosive, stop-and-start death metal from that genre's golden age, as if all of the ways the style had progressed since '89 have been forgotten, or rendered powerless...Reifert is his usual abrasive self, vomiting out barks and sick screams, crashing and bashing his kit to pieces, the riffing from the two guitarists is drunken, sloppy, seemingly improvised in a number of places, and just about perfect. The solos, especially in the first song 'Rusted Blood', are played in a casual, offhand manner the likes of which I have not heard in a long time. Some of them are almost brilliant, and instantly evoke 'Severed Survival' for me, although one of the guitarists (I am guessing it is Bower) has a 'stoner' tone and feel not unlike Fu Manchu's fuzzier moments, which is little distracting - especially on the title track. The lyrics? Well, I don't have the sheet, but guessing from the song titles I'm sure they are in the grand Autopsy tradition as well...

Ultimately I don't know what the value of this album is going to end up being...will it continue to be touted as some kind of Autopsy reunion or 'return to form' (it is worth noting that the label is claiming this, not the band, as far as I can tell) for these guys, or will it be a step in a new direction - a release that marked a new path of exploration? Who knows? Again, a fair amount of this is actually pretty close to mid-period Autopsy, after Mental Funeral, right before they completely lost their minds and descended into a scatological delirium, and so for long-time fans of these musicians and their earlier work, this will certainly be welcome. There is a little more rock 'n' roll here, perhaps, than in the classic Autopsy material, a little more punk - simpler melodies ('Ratbag'), spontaneity, and simpler song structures - and a love for the raw, unpracticed, and 'uncooked' in terms of their whole sound. Because I have been experiencing something of a resurgence of interest in Autopsy lately, prompted by Necroharmonic's release of their demo material on CD, I feel I'm in a pretty good position right now to listen to 'Tormented' critically, but the last thing I would want to do would be to compare this to that band's classic output, and, in all fairness, that's probably the last thing this band would want done to them - after all, those first death metal albums were released over a decade ago, and I'm sure these guys have moved on, right? Well...

This probably would have left me with a better opinion of its relevance if it had been an EP or MCD, limited to only the slowest and most agonizing songs...the faster, more up-tempo material leaves me absolutely cold...I don't really know why. Only when listening to 'Scream Bloody Gore' or Reifert's first album with this band do I appreciate his take on quick tempos. But when, for example, Abscess decide to slow it down and pound out those old Autopsy funeral marches - for example, the end of 'Deathscape in Flames', the middle of 'Rusted Blood', or in 'Death Runs Red' - I find myself grinning with grim pleasure, and those frozen rictus smiles that have been part of my repertoire since 'Severed Survival' first came out appear on my face no matter how hard I try to banish them...the glory days are gone forever, but they can still be replicated I suppose, and this is actually much better than a lot of the music that is coming out today under the banner of 'modern' death metal.