I won’t go so far as to say album promo sheets are useless, but only because they’re often an indicator of how badly a band (or their PR people) misjudges their own sound. We’ve all had the never-been-heard-before braggadocio of a Bathory/Venom mash-up, the new heights promises of the perennial 2.5 bands, or that metalcore act that thinks they’re prog metal. Not one of us would bat an eye that Firespawn, the most meat and potatoes death metal act this side of modern Bloodbath, claim their third album Abominate “explores new ground that not many death metal bands have before.”1 Not any of you should be shocked if, surprise, surprise, Abominate doesn’t do that at all.
Abominate is big, burly, and brazen, exactly the Entombed A.D.-core you’d expect with LG Petrov at the mic. In fact, “big” made undersell it. This record is huge. Petrov digs as deep as ever, carving crust out of the ground as he crafts his ear-shattering caverns. With vile riffs at his disposal, his roars lead Firespawn from “The Gallows End” through “Death and Damnation” and into the title track. The last is a behemoth that stomps with the best the band ever laid down, a barreling freighter without brakes or fear. The throbbing stomp that accompanies Petrov’s feral roars could crush whatever concave-muscle music you play to pump yourself up before benching 95 pounds. As “Heathen Blood” continues this trend, we’re seemingly off to
the races world domination.
Yet Abominate is as deceptive as it is devilish. The sonic shift from “Abominate” into “Heathen Blood” is microscopic; likewise with subsequent tracks. 41 minutes tick off the clock, and yet it only feels like you’ve listened to two or three tracks by the finish. Firespawn‘s propensity for rhythmic battering keeps songs ripping along easily. Its momentum is admirable, reminiscent of classic Nile in its unrepentant forwardness. But even after closer “Black Wings of the Apocalypse” beats my pale ass into oleo-flavored mashed potatoes, I come away from Abominate with the impression that this is indeed A Death Metal Album played by A Death Metal Band. “Black Wings” ends on a dime, capping a record devoid of fanfare, save the obligatory horror movie clip that is more membership due than effective musical technique. It’s riff after riff after riff, few of which separate Firespawn even just a little from better material on their most recent record.
Victor Brandt and Fredrik Folkare return on the axes, and while their work is professional, it’s somehow more generic than last time. I could caveat this with the standard “generic doesn’t necessarily mean bad,” but why bother? In today’s landscape, generic is worse. Bad gets laughs; generic gets forgotten. Still, it’s worth noting that the performances, especially from Petrov and drummer Matte Modin, make the material more than the sum of its parts. It would be easy to envision a version of this record with a less capable production and less convincing performances that slides into that dreaded 2.0 valley, a record so bland it’s not even worth lamenting.
For as much as I don’t want to read into the promo sheet, one line from Firespawn‘s stands out: “We make exactly the kind of music that we like.” That could be ripped from any promo copy, but I actually buy it here. Even if there’s room to improve, there is enough to like in the music and enough quality in the musicians to be worth a spin. Every member of Firespawn carries the pedigree of names like Unleashed, Necrophobic, Dark Funeral, and of course, Entombed A.D. behind them. The years of experience bleed through the music. You could build a Rhodesian monument to AMG solely from releases like these, but Abominate oozes commitment in a way that makes the record an easy sell to anyone who enjoys being punched in the face.