Amputate – Dawn of Annihilation Review

Amputate - Dawn of Annihilation01The Boss Ape looked perplexed. “Why is my favorite reviewer…”—My grin widened—”…of basement-dwelling, one-man, atmoblack projects choosing to cover death metal?” I gingerly pointed him to AMG policy 5a: “Man cannot live by black metal alone. Thou shalt expand thine horizons.” He nodded suspiciously and slipped Amputate’s second album, Dawn of Annihilation, across the desk. “You’ll be pleased to note that there’s no falsetto,” he added. “Just try not to be an ass-clown about this one… or it’s more Minipony for you.” Somewhat shaken, I looked down. “Oh, cool! Looks like The Matrix!” But by this point, he had turned away, leaving me no option but to quietly skulk out. Back at my desk, the liner notes confirmed my first impression: “Dawn Of Annihilation recreates the future obliteration of humanity by a supreme and malevolent A.I… [Dawn] imagines our grotesque demise as perpetrated by sentient machines.” So: The Matrix meets Death Metal. Should have got the blood pumping, but instead, I was concerned. Why wasn’t this pushing my buttons?

Perhaps it’s because this is all somewhat… recycled. From the Matrix-y cover to the blood-spattered band logo to the “A.I. is coming to kill us all!” themes, Amputate is clearly aiming for a slightly retro aesthetic. Curiously, however, the style of death metal the band plays does not hearken back to the late 90s, nor is there any evidence of a tongue being planted in the cheek (the liner notes assure us that Amputate have “left behind the gore and dark humor from the previous album.”) Rather, Dawn of Annihilation is modern, riffy, no-frills death metal. There is no Autopsy-like grime, or Faceless Burial-sheen, just middle-of-the-road DM. But in a genre saturated with similar acts, there needs to be something more to stand out. And sadly, Amputate just doesn’t have it.

For an album that promises to crush and destroy, Dawn of Annihilation sounds remarkably jittery and unsure of itself. The band barely lingers on any riff or idea long enough for it to sink in before launching into another riff or solo. “Conquering Thy Flesh” and “Agonizing in Terror” both have some cool breakdown moments in amongst the fury, but these are quickly disposed of, and we return to repetitive riffage and crunching guitars. The result is a descent into monotony because Amputate is afraid to leave its comfort zone for any length of time. This is a real pity because when they do (the thrash of “Plague Upon Plague,” the instrumental closer “Buried By Ashes”), Dawn of Annihilation is at its most compelling.

The riffs themselves are perfectly serviceable without ever threatening to truly wreck the listener’s neck muscles. It’s kinda “nod along while occasionally tapping your foot” stuff, which is fine for a transit home but not what you want if you’re looking for a guitar feast after a long week. The melodies tend to limit themselves to a fairly restricted range before a righteous solo tears everything apart. There isn’t anything bad about this per se, but the formula is repeated too many times over the course of the album and eventually becomes predictable, even to ears not fully attuned to death metal madness. The extremely limited production highlights the crush but also succeeds in blending everything together into a dense grey paste.

“The Matrix” will forever be cool, but it was lightning in a bottle, as the subsequent sequels have shown. Trying to recapture that magic in a death metal album nearly 25 years later, while not sounding derivative, was always going to be ambitious. Sadly, Dawn of Annihilation is derivative, sticking solidly to its death metal template while resolutely refusing to bring much else to the table. This is solid stuff, and no one should be embarrassed by the output, but it’s not enough to stand out from the crowd, nor to get an AMG recommendation. Amputate needs to follow Ol’ Doomy‘s lead and step out of their comfort zone more regularly.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Massacre Records
Releases Worldwide: October 14th, 2022

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