Ever have one of those weeks, or any period of time, where you feel like you are trapped with no hope of escape? One where the stress weighs down like an elephant on your chest, filling you with anxiety and a feeling that the chaos in your head isn’t going away any time soon?
That’s actually been the past couple of weeks for me, and it’s mainly work related as major projects come to a head, burst into flames, and leave us all back at the drawing board. I know there are far worse problems in the world, so let’s toss out the “woe is me” sentiments, but it’s still been complex and, at times, a little disheartening. As anyone who has read this page over a long period of time probably is predicting, yes, I did find some very suitable music for this stretch. I needed stuff that felt like the world exploding, black soot raining down, and there being no hope of escape. Right, I don’t seek out happy, uplifting music when I’m in a trench. I want to hear something that sounds like it’s right down there with me, and Abstracter’s punishing second record “Wound Empire” more than fit the bill. This is four tracks and 42 minutes of pure aggression.
This Oakland-based band piles doom, crust, and sludge on top of each other, building a toxic waste dump of noise that can be oppressive and impossible to navigate your way out of. And that’s been perfect for matching a dark period, one where I needed to hear music that identified with my volatile mental state. The band has been active for the past five years, first heading out into noise-infested waters before the group starting really coming together. Abstracter—vocalist Mattia Alagna, guitarist Robin Kahn, bassist Donovan Kelley, drummer Emad Dajani—recorded this thing last summer, when things were at their brightest and most alive. But you never get the sense they drank in the rays and stretched out. This document is so full of darkness, hopelessness, and ashen fury, that it sounds like it would have to come from one of the darkest times of the year, when many people’s mentality is bleak and eroded. Kind of like right now.
Oh, and heads up: This thing is out on like 19 different formats and labels. What we’re going to do for the buy-here link is send you to the Bandcamp site. They have a link for all of those formats, but we’ll still provide separate links to the labels, all of which you should explore if you haven’t already. We good on that? I guess it doesn’t matter, because that’s what we’re doing.
“Lightless” opens the record, a massive 10:56-long splitter that dumps feedback everywhere and lets penetrating noise ring out. The band slips into slow pummeling that takes its time but smothers you with heaviness, and vicious growls emerge that sound monstrous. The duration of the song is meaty and massive, giving you very little room to breathe, and with a few minutes left, the chaos subsides and lets calm take over. That doesn’t last, as it goes back into such a devastating pattern, you might be compelled to throw a table out of a window. The track eventually bleeds out and spills into “Open Veins,” which has quite the ominous opening. Guitars begin to trickle down, with heavy melodies gaining control and other sections of the music getting mired in muck. There are moody, simmering passages, buzzing lurching that pulls you into the earth, and more sludging kicking up and spewing cinders. The band really starts wailing away with a couple minutes left, and the final moments are positively cataclysmic.
“Cruciform” starts with noise hanging in the air like a death cloud, and the music kicks into a calculating, violent pace. The vocals sound infernally delivered, like if you get too close they could burn the hairs off your face, and strong melodies snake in and out of the thick tributaries of sound. Like all of the songs on this record, there are plenty of tempo shifts, bringing the pace down at times, detonating explosives at others, but no matter what they’re doing, it’s always emotional and true. As the song winds down, Alagna’s vocal hit a savage wail, and the band drives into a smashing finish that bring things to a volcanic end. Closer “Glowing Wounds” begins with things pulled back, the picture allowed to develop, and clean vocals that sound purposely detached and robotic. The first half of the song keeps things even-keeled but still girthy, but the latter portion is where the track get smashing and dangerous. Growls return, sounding like they could shred vocal cords, while the band unleashes spirited, incredibly heavy play that pours added fuel to the fires and even injects some atmosphere in the horrors. The final minute is absolutely blistering, with the guys punishing your wounds, darkening everything around you, and robbing you of any chance you’ll know hope again.
This is a massive, earth-crushing record, with Abstracter stepping out as a band you need to know and respect right now. “Wound Empire” is their most devastating, adulation-deserving to date, and each visit I had with the album, I got sucked in more and more to all of the madness going on inside. This can equal and resonate with any tumult currently going on in your life, and maybe it’ll absorb just a bit of your dark energy as you try to forge ahead on your path, knocking down every annoying barrier in your wake.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.abstracterband.com/
To buy the album in any format, go here: http://abstracter.bandcamp.com/album/wound-empire
For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/SentientRuin
And here: http://fragilebranch.com/
And here: http://www.7degrees-records.de/
And here: http://anout.bandcamp.com/
And, finally, here: https://vendettarecords.wordpress.com/