Abhorrent Decimation – ‘The Pardoner’

By Jay Hampshire

Mislabelling happens all the time. We’ve all experienced its wrath. Turns out the shoes you picked up weren’t on sale, the sandwich wasn’t part of the meal deal, and that local free hip hop gig was a Christian hip hop gig. While mislabelling is mostly harmless (apart from inflammable and flammable meaning the same thing), it is one thing: annoying. Brighton/London based death metallers Abhorrent Decimation (who win this week’s ‘most metal band name’ award by a landslide) have been victims of such mislabelling. Because their second full-length, ‘The Pardoner’, isn’t the modern death-metal album it’s touted to be – it’s a deathcore album.

While getting hung up on genre and labelling is definitely the province of elitists and keyboard warriors, it definitely raises interesting questions about the evolution of sound, and how much an artist can be influenced by one sub-genre before the lines blur. ‘The Pardoner’, undeniably, contains elements familiar to death metal fans, including a lofty concept relating to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales that will only be decipherable by a very select group of Medieval English Literature aficionados who also speak fluent pig squeal.

‘Soothsayer’ creeps in with creaking strings and foreboding piano that’s quickly shoulder-barged aside by battering drums and a blistering climbing tremolo riff. Check the box for deathcore trope number one – triggered drums, which are an understandably necessary evil due to the sheer tempo the wonderfully named Dan Danby keeps up throughout the record. They lend a mechanical nature to the track, and there’s more than a little of Job For A Cowboy about the interplay between shredding riffs and Ashley Scott’s guttural vocal delivery. ‘Heretic Sacrifice’ kicks in with held, statement chords and stuttering drums before barrelling into a breathless, tearing rush, before closing out with a lilting piano led melody.

‘Votive Offerings’ bounds along with a very familiar, heavily muted chug pattern under a droning atonal guitar line (tick deathcore box number two). It cuts hard into a decent groove, the constant vocal barks used like liberal punctuation, through a brutally shifting instrumental and then into the typical ‘duuuuuun, duuuuun’ heavily down tuned chords and bellows that reek of Oceano. ‘Granted Indulgence’ chops to the windpipe immediately, a dipping groove and needling overlay that pushes out in scope, slowing and adding breathing room before ending with a weird noisescape. ‘Black Candle Gathering’ spirals with atonal riffing and slippery grooves, snaking and coiling around organic drums and breathy synths, marking it out as the best offering thus far.

‘Conspire’ is swollen and dense, meaty snare slaps and locked in palm muting adding muscle to the aural assault, throwing unsettling cries of distant agony into the thicket of scraping guitar. ‘A Glass Coffin Burial’ loops and drops into a sub-thrash stomping run, but mars things with a smattering of forced beatdowns (deathcore checkbox number 3). ‘A Scythe In The Dark’ ascends and descends with tremolo, throwing ever more guttural vocals into the mix, but sounds a little too similar to its forebears to truly shine. ‘Host’ stops and starts, building tension with grinding chords and a slowly climbing riff, bursting into a dizzying solo and an instrumental that showcases the bands’ technical chops to the extent that it makes you long for a record entirely built in this vein.

‘The Pardoner’ evokes the previous nine tracks, linking the album together cyclically by ending with the same lilting piano vamp that the album begins with. There’s a sense that perhaps the album would have lingered on the palette longer if the band had reduced the number of tracks, or cut the extended running time of a few down somewhat. The production job is clean and clear, but perhaps lacks the heft of a true low-end focused job that might have added some much need dirt under the finger nails. As with many records, ‘The Pardoner’ seems to trade mass for volume, falling into the trap of louder and more present equalling heavier. A tirade of technically proficient, pleasingly varied, venomous and hungry deathcore this may be, but don’t step into this expectant of a new-age Origin or Obituary.

JAY HAMPSHIRE

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