Abysmal Dawn – Phylogenesis Review

Abysmal Dawn play a lunch pail, nine-to-five style of death metal that gets the job done on time and within the budget. You can’t expect miracles out of them, but the band are nothing if not dependable, barely changing their style over six albums with Phylogenesis. And hey, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Good riffs, confident solos, and an attention to presentation have been a winning formula for the band for about a decade and a half and have served the genre well since 1985. If you like death metal, you like Abysmal Dawn, and if you like Abysmal Dawn, you’ll like Phylogenesis.

I, of course, do like death metal. And I can find little to complain of in Phylogenesis1. “Mundane Existence” opens the album with a flurry of speedy riffs and a pit-inciting sing-along chorus. Throw in a couple of solos between band mastermind Charles Elliott and new axe-man Vito Petroni and you’ve got yourself a death metal song you could set your watch to. Wanna hear that seven more times? I usually do, and that’s what Phylogenesis delivers, plus a capable cover of Death’s “Flattening of Emotions.” Abysmal Dawn have death metal down not to a science but to a craft; they’ve been releasing good records since 2006 without indicating any interest in change. They absolutely don’t need to, but they’re never going to stun listeners familiar with the art form. It’s impressive, though, that Phylogensis never feels tired or padded out over its 43-minute runtime. Sharp riffs flow almost continuously, interrupted only by those shreddy and satisfying solos.

As he has for years, Elliott embeds social critique in the gory theater of death metal. Maleficent capitalists and their handmaidens in media, government, and of course, outer space, force us into submission and profit off of our misery, expressed in the grimmest terms of enslavement and genocide. While Elliott isn’t as evocative and literary as the very best lyricists, he never fails to connect. His snappy cadence and remarkably clear roar keep songs with very uniform sounds from feeling undifferentiated, and the rest of the band know when to haul ass and when to give Elliott the spotlight. Pithy choruses give “Coerced Evolution” and “Soul-Sick Nation” real personality and are always delivered with a rhythmic hook and a heap of power.

But that power feels restrained by flat production. Phylogenesis has the very polished sound that Abysmal Dawn have always gone for, but this time around it feels just a bit less lively. The kick drum is pushed a bit too much in the mix, the bass a bit neglected, and the guitars lack just a bit of the edge they had in Obsolescence. The whole album just sounds a bit muddier, perhaps a result of it being the first Abysmal Dawn record that Elliott himself has mixed. It’s a small defect in songs that probably kill live, but one of the few salient differences between Phylogenesis and past Abysmal Dawn records. In a discography so consistent, a little change like this might have me still reaching for Obsolescence over Phylogenesis when I need a death metal fix.

Few bands can boast the consistency that comes so naturally to Abysmal Dawn, and I’m loathe to fault Elliott’s death metal vehicle for continuing to cruise. Phylogenesis is a good death metal record bolstered by Abysmal Dawn’s uncanny confidence; Elliott and company know exactly what to produce and have no trouble manning the machinery. If, as I do, you consider the production of death metal to be an essential labor, it’s a no-brainer to practice some mutual aid with the workers who produce it and snag yourself a copy of Phylogenesis.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: abysmaldawn.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/abysmaldawn
Releases Worldwide: April 17th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. I mean, yes, they’re pandering to me with that title, but that’s just endearing.
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