Whenever a band drops a landmark album, the inevitable game of genre pollution happens. Every now and then, one of that band’s influences creates an album or sound that’s as good, if not better, than the original. However, for the most part, the creative well runs dry after a while. Case in point: Spanish newcomers The Holeum are tossing their hats into the overly crowded post-metal ring with their debut, Negative Abyss. Will this satisfy your fix for more silver in your bloodstream, or is this best left somewhere along the highway?
If opener “Chemical Ghosts” is any indication, Negative Abyss definitely comes out swinging for the fences while checking off any and all post-metal check boxes. Tribal intro? Check. Repetitious-yet-building guitar riffs? Check. Barked vocals a la Aaron Turner (Isis)? Check. Thick-as-tar bass that follows the guitars with no deviation? Check. A slightly subdued middle part that acts as a tension builder for a heavy climax? Check and mate. However, the 3/4 rhythmic swagger that this song provides can’t be denied, and is energetic enough to overlook the cliches. That and drummer Miguel Fernández holds your attention throughout the song’s entirety with his cymbal work.
But there’s this nagging sense of déjà vu that permeates throughout Negative Abyss. You feel like you’ve heard this all before as the album progresses because, honestly, you have heard this all before. Oftentimes, you’ll hear it again when compared to their own songs, especially with “Philosopher’s Stone” and “Omniverse,” with both utilizing the same damn 3/4 measure as “Chemical Ghosts.” When the band does attempt to branch out, the results are vastly mixed. The use of horns in “Philosopher’s Stone” is both daring and ear-catching, which this album needed more of. On the flip side, “Pictures of the Uncanny” showcases Pablo Egido’s singing voice, hammering home the fact that he should stick to emulating Aaron Turner’s barking. “Cosmic Horror,” a six-minute instrumental consisting of ambient whooshes and atonal horns, serves no purpose whatsoever.
At least the production caters to the heft of the music. The guitars rumble and plow with the might of a bulldozer, the bass pulses with authority, and the drums pummel with clarity. The vocals blend well with the mix which, despite the dynamic range score, doesn’t feel overly loud. But a good mix can’t hide the fact that Negative Abyss accomplishes nothing to differentiate itself from the scores of bands emulating Neurosis, Isis, or Cult of Luna. And after a week of listening to this album twice a day, I’m left grasping at straws to find something that places this band on the same level as the aforementioned leaders, and I’m coming up empty. When only one song hooked me, and that song is the opener, it’s never a good sign.
And it kills me to say that, as these guys possess a ton of energy. But while Negative Abyss doesn’t possess truly bad moments, it also doesn’t elevate The Holeum above the teeming masses of bands that have already bled a parched well dry. Making a great first impression is especially paramount here, and Negative Abyss fails. Maybe on the next go-around, guys. Frustratingly average.