Abysmal Dawn – Phylogenesis

Band: Abysmal Dawn
Title: Phylogenesis
Label: Season of Mist
Release Date: 17 April 2020
Country: USA
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to this review we have here on the subject of Death Metal, in particular “Phylogenesis” by California’s ABYSMAL DAWN. Now we can debate how long Death Metal has existed as a genre and who first set that template. We can probably all at least agree though that it would be somewhere in the mid to late 80s. That means that we’ve easily lived through a good 30 years of Death Metal. So here we are and the question I ask is what does the genre still have to offer in the year 2020?

“Phylogenesis” kicks off in frenetic, hammering fashion with the super fast double bass pedaling and fluid, slithering riffing of “Mundane Existence”, it is clear from the off that the band is intent on delivering powerful, technically proficient Death Metal, full of cascading guitar solos, some slamming breakdowns and no lack of aggression. All of this the band does deliver to a degree, but while I find myself repeatedly on the edge of really getting into this music, there’s ultimately something that doesn’t quite satisfy me.

Let’s talk about production. Something that stands very early on with this album is how compressed everything is. My biggest gripe may be the drums. There’s something about the sound of the drums on this album that just seems to lack some oomph. There’s all this rapid fire double bass pedaling, that should be pounding me into the dust, but it doesn’t quite hit the spot. Take the track “Hedonistic”. This track includes some ridiculously rapid fire drumming, but it lacks the real impact my ears are craving. I find myself repeatedly fixating on this sound quality all the way to the last track, the band’s cover of the classic DEATH track “Flattening of Emotions”.

No doubt the band can play. It’s not really a problem with having the metal chops to handle DEATH, but when held up against the original, the lack of visceral power here does stand out. Likewise, when I go back for some other reference points, DEICIDE, CANNIBAL CORPSE, DYING FETUS, the same feeling endures. All these bands have a really powerful, heavy as fuck sound, be it the overwhelming drum sound, or the hot, overdriven guitars. Maybe it’s unfair to make these comparisons when ABYSMAL DAWN aren’t necessarily aiming for the same kind of sound. On “Coerced Evolution” (definitely a standout track on the album) there’s something of an Industrial Metal feel in the clipped guitar riffing, it makes me think of FEAR FACTORY. When listen to their most recent record as another reference point, I get the same feeling that this album, just doesn’t have the same force to it.

All this aside the technical ability of the band is not to be overlooked and throughout the album there are plenty of passages, riffs and hooks that tease me into thinking that this could really grow on me, not to mention some fluid lead guitar work. “A Speck in the Fabric of Eternity” is another standout track with some great off the beat drum work and a satisfyingly chugging breakdown with cool vocal phrasing that runs along nicely with the guitar riffing, and (hallelujah) more balls in the sound of the bass. 

Similarly “Soul-Sick Nation” has a bass heavy resonance that gives the dark riffing a harder edge. On this track the band is at their most malevolent. There’s a strong whiff of MORBID ANGEL about this track, which is no bad reference point, but it takes me back to my earlier comments about the sound of this album, for all the cool moments there are on this album, overall it feels like an inferior version of the classic bands being referenced. In the absence of brutally powerful production I would need to be hearing some innovation or novelty, and to be honest I’m left wondering what is being played here that hasn’t already been done 20 years ago.

I feel like this review probably comes off more damning than I mean it to. Maybe I’m so critical because I like a lot of elements of this, but feel it could have been more. This is not a bad album by any means. I enjoy it. It’s good Death Metal, played with energy and ability, but ultimately it does make me want to listen to other bands that have already done this before, just somewhat better. 6.5/10 Tom Boatman

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6.5/10 We May Survive
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