Metal reflects its environs. England’s gloomy weather gave birth to the Peaceville Three, the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest gave birth to Cascadian black metal, and the lazy Southern swagger of New Orleans gave birth to sludge. But the sweltering heat of the Big Easy also produced another vile offspring, a hellish bastard child forged by hundred degree summers and humidity high enough to turn your grundle into Lake Pontchartrain. Abysmal Lord is their name and bestial blackened death metal is their game. While Grymm was none too enthused about the trio’s 2015 debut Disciples of the Inferno, I enjoyed it and heard it as a decent little mix of Morbosidad and Archgoat. Four years later these Grave Ritual members have returned with second album Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal, a record that’s just as heavy but comes packaged with a couple issues.
Exaltation has a lot in common with its predecessor. Once again we’re treated to infernal blackened death metal that practically requires a flame retardant suit to make it out alive. The guitars are downtuned to the deepest pits of hell, though the riffs remain surprisingly discernible and typically consist of fast and menacing chords. Blast beats are common, though the band also incorporate some wilder beats and even a few slower moments that recall Archgoat. While memorability isn’t a word commonly associated with this style, the album does feature a few standout ideas. Early highlight “Races of Jehovah” uses riffs that urgently maneuver around the fretboard before breaking for a brief slow dirge, while the title track employs thick resonant tremolos to good effect. Likewise, closer “Scourge of Christ” manages to feel different with a smoothly flowing main riff and a memorable closing progression.
The biggest difference between this and Disciples is how much more chaotic the band sound. Right from the start of first proper track “Monolith of Vengeance,” Lord break into a cacophonous onslaught that takes a few seconds before it distills itself into anything comprehensible. Sadly, while I get what the band were going for, it just ends up sounding messy. The vocals sound like they’re intended to further this chaotic feeling, though they have issues as well. While the vocalist’s vomited rasp is fine, it’s quite loud in the mix and has a lot of layering and echoing effects that become irritating. Likewise, second half songs like “Scars of Heresy” tend to blend together and feel pretty stock, causing Exaltation‘s 34-minute runtime to feel pretty long.
In all the arrangements just never come across as particularly compelling and the memorable moments always seem to leave too soon. Nonetheless the band’s fiery assault can be compelling, particularly when it comes to drummer J.B. The man delivers quite an aggressive performance, with tracks like “Preparing the Throne”1 featuring clobbering beats that remind me of Revenge‘s mighty J. Read. Often he’ll further add to the fury by synchronizing snare strikes with the end of a riff in a way that reminds me of Blasphemophagher. Unsurprisingly the production is hot, stuffy, and loud, though nothing seriously bothers me about it with the exception of the aforementioned vocal effects.
In retrospect, one of the things I liked so much about Disciples was how stripped down it felt. While it wasn’t a modern classic by any means, it was nice how the production and performances let the songs speak for themselves. With Exaltation of the Infernal Cabal, Abysmal Lord feel like they’ve thrown more at the listener, from the general vibe of chaos to the overly layered vocals. Sadly this doesn’t always work and most of the songs simply don’t do much for me. While I appreciate some of the riffs and the overall energy, I can’t say this is anything I’ll reach for over other bands in the style. Perhaps hardcore blackened death fans will enjoy more.