September 21, 2018

Abysmal Torment - The Misanthrope

By Bryan Camphire. Maltese metalheads Abysmal Torment churn out mighty intense brutal death. Their music is ultra complex, and their releases are totally unrelenting from start to finish. They play their own brand of brutal death metal
By Bryan Camphire.

Maltese metalheads Abysmal Torment return with their fourth full-length in a dozen years. Their music is ultra complex, and their releases are totally unrelenting from start to finish. They play their own brand of brutal death metal with an extra emphasis on the moshpit. Yet, this new record, The Misanthrope, doesn't divulge its secrets easily. The torrents of blast enshrine the majesty of this release like the walls of a fortress shield the riches of the keep.

With The Misanthrope, Abysmal Torment have upped the ante on all levels of their music including the production, squashing the mix with massive amounts of compression so that it sounds as loud and as in your face as can be. It's easy to view this type of production with disdain: it's very modern; it's the type of thing done by nauseating bands like Metallica today. Truthfully, I had to lower the bass on the equalizer on my car stereo while listening to The Misanthrope just so that I could hear more of what was going on with the guitar work on this release. I can not think of any other musical release I've heard that has this much kick drum in it, both in volume level and in quantity. This was off-putting for the first few spins. Then it drew me in. The bold-faced velocity of Abysmal Torment's full frontal assault beckons me inwards to look for subtlety in the eye of their mile-wide mayhem.

Indeed, subtleties abound in the music of The Misanthrope. The intricacy of this set on display more than makes up for its lack of dynamics, like a church ceiling that transfixes you despite your lack of faith. No doubt the sheet music for these songs would be liable to make a person cross-eyed. The details are dizzying, yet ever so meticulously composed and executed. Abysmal Torment are surgeons of slam, precise and exacting after they lay you out flat.

The emotional thrust of this brickmason-like music is what becomes so surprising about it over repeated listens. Tracks three four and five are a highlight for me, and each of them make me feel like Beavis and Butthead on speed as I listen. This is one of the bands best slight's of hand: amidst their unrelenting onslaught - riddled with odd meters, delivered at blistering speed - it's the groove they deliver that hooks you and riles you up.

I became such a big fan of Abysmal Torment over the years that I've scoured the rosters of many a record label that peddles this type of brutality - including Pittsburgh's venerable Willowtip Records, home to this release - and have found no other band who produces this sound with such finesse. They almost make it seem easy. If you're a fan of hyper complex rhythms, listen to the first track on Abysmal Torment's 2009 release, Omnicide, and try to count it. That song continues to mesmerize me many years after first hearing it.

The band has stayed true to their trademark density on The Misanthrope. Like Abysmal Torment's colossal records before it, I'm certain The Misanthrope will trickle clues to its mysteries that will seep slowly into the consciousness for many years to come.

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