REVIEW: ABHORRENT DECIMATION – “The Pardoner”
Though die-hards in the UK’s death metal underground may have been aware of London brutalisers Abhorrent Decimation, last spring they found themselves garnering the attention of those who may prefer their music less gore-drenched. Due to a comically fantastic error at a CD printing factory, British entertainer Bernie Clifton’s album of cover songs had its tracklist replaced with song titles from Abhorrent Decimation’s debut full-length, ‘Miasmic Mutation’. The band found a fair bit of press going their way with this, both in our little world of metal and mainstream press as well. On the back of the strength of their aforementioned debut, Abhorrent Decimation found themselves signed to Prosthetic Records, and are on the cusp of releasing their label-debut, ‘The Pardoner’.
With their sophomore full-length set to be released on the 28th of July, Abhorrent Decimation sound like a whole new band. The brutality is still present in abundance, as are the grooves and the sinister atmosphere. But in the time between ‘Miasmic Mutation’ and ‘The Pardoner’, Abhorrent Decimation has evolved into something more. They have carved out an identity for themselves – an identity that is a lot more mature and confident in itself than what was found on the otherwise solid debut.
‘The Pardoner’ opens with a gothic and quite beautiful piano section at the start of “The Soothsayer” that drives the track into some buzz-saw brutality that feels influenced by old-school Swedish death metal. Though ‘The Pardoner‘ could certainly not be described as a symphonic death metal album, Abhorrent Decimation have chosen to ignore the trend in metal of having a big, epic, orchestral intro and then ignoring all possibility of symphonic elements throughout the rest of the album. While not overbearing, there is a healthy about of orchestration throughout ‘The Pardoner’ that gives the album a whole new level of depth, and contributes to the maturity and sense of identity across the record.
The second half of ‘The Pardoner’ is by far the strongest, however. Though the first half had the fantastic opening “The Soothsayer” and the brilliantly brutal “Black Candle Gathering”, the almost-eight minute beast “Votive Offerings” felt a bit disjointed, and could have been split into two separate tracks. The second half of the record takes the strength that was found on the majority of Side A, and amplifies it. “Conspire” – which will be released as a single on the 16th of June – is a contender for one of the best tracks on the record, showcasing a selection of hooks and riffs that are just so goddamn heavy. Quite possibly the heaviest track on the record, “A Glass Coffin Burial” stands as nearly four minutes of pure, unadulterated brutality that feels like a mix of early Morbid Angel and old-school grind, and it leads in to the equally brutalising, but sludgier, “A Scythe In The Dark”. The ninth song, “Host”, serves two purposes: it allows ex-Reign of Fury axeman Ross McLennan to have a few minutes of brilliant shredding. It serves as an intro for the undeniably epic closing song – the 9:34 long title track.
What strikes me most when comparing ‘Miasmic Mutation’, or indeed, their debut EP ‘Infected Celestial Utopia’, to ‘The Pardoner’ is the sense of progression. While neither of the former releases could be described as simple, they are both very much standard death metal releases – very well composed and executed, but certainly not game changing. With the exception of “Souls of Sedation”, every Abhorrent Decimation track sat around the 3-4 minute mark, with a heavy focus on blasting brutality. ‘The Pardoner’ is an entirely different beast with more adventurous songwriting, the use of the previously mentioned symphonic elements, and longer songs that allow the music time to progress and evolve. Abhorrent Decimation have turned from a good band into a great one.
‘The Pardoner’ shows a whole lot more variety and a wider musical vocabulary than anything Abhorrent Decimation have done to date. Further, although there are a couple of weak tracks, the blending from song to song gives the album a sense of cohesion and makes it feel like one solid piece of music, rather than a collection of ten self-contained tracks. Though the album is not perfect – the clumsy “Votive Offerings” halts the momentum built from “The Soothsayer” and the savage “Heretic Offerings” – ‘The Pardoner’ is undoubtedly the most ambitious and well-executed slab of writing the band has released to date, and stands as a testament to the strength of the UK death metal scene.