What is the heaviest album of all time? While you’re running off to the comments to tell me, I’m going to stay here and admit that I have no clue. I don’t even know what the heaviest album ever would sound like. It could be blazingly fast or crushingly slow, or some combination of the two. Or it could simply carry an intense emotional weight from its subject matter, but the point is, heaviness is a hard concept to define when it comes to music. But that doesn’t keep us from using it as a descriptor and benchmark when consuming the music that we know and love around these parts. So, like I said, I can’t tell you what the heaviest album ever is, but I can tell you that today’s record is the sound of a band trying to create it.
Their second full-length Abyssal finds Humanity’s Last Breath playing an almost progressive version of deathcore. By adding in djent, a bit of industrial, some eerie electronic atmospheric elements, and a heaping helping of clean singing, they’ve created a pretty fresh sound for a genre that trends towards the stale. Now, don’t let this clean singing disclosure conjure sounds of the standard metalcore good cop/bad cop trope in your mind’s ear. Here, the singing is used almost exclusively as creepy back-up to vocalist Filip Danielsson’s absolutely monstrous roars. See “Bursting Bowel of Tellus” or embedded track “Fragda” to hear the dissonant clean harmonies used to add terrifying depth to an already abyssal sound.
Ah, the sound. It’s a huge, massive, oceanborn sound — not born in the waves like Nightwish, mind you, but in the deepest buttcrack of the Mariana Trench. Guitarist and songwriter Buster Odehelm has doubled as the drummer for Vildhjarta, and his time spent with those djent djiants is evident here. “Bone Dust” sees the band mixing brutal death and thrash before some Korn style creeper whispers usher in a djentrified breakdown. “Abyssal Mouth” features some weaponized bass guitar — it sounds like Satan playing the Seinfeld theme at eighth speed by firing arrows from the lowest string with his man-hands. “Bursting Bowel of Tellus” opens things up with a djentdustrial steamroller of a riff that would make Meshuggah (and Muppet) proud and “Fragda” dials up the death metal then creates some good contrast with big breakdowns, noodling djent leads, and a mellow clean-sung passage. My home gym has been packed away so I’ve grown fatter and weaker over the last two months, but I can almost feel my deadlift getting stronger while listening to the A-side of this record from the comfort of my couch.
And that’s the catch. While the front half has some boundary-pushing, genre-blending going on, the second half stumbles a bit. Of the final seven tracks, three are essentially instrumentals and they form a tale of the good, the bad, and the “meh.” “För Song” features melancholy clean guitars and is meant to be a change of pace at the album’s midpoint, but when those leads are played over fast death rhythms, it fails at its goal and ends up being a waste. Closer “Dödgud” is Gregorian chants over heavy music and I could take it or leave it, but “Being” is a compelling spoken word atmospheric piece contemplating the role and consequences of resentment in modern human life and it works like a charm. The three proper B-side tracks are good but reuse many of the same techniques employed on the front side, and when combined with the numerous instrumentals, it causes Abyssal to run out of steam. Cut one or two of the main tracks and two of the instrumentals from the back half, and we’re looking at a very good record with plenty of momentum.
We may never know what the heaviest album ever is, but I’m pretty happy with the time I spent with the crushing and appropriately named Abyssal. Humanity’s Last Breath suffered from some of the same flaws as another Unique Leader band I reviewed recently, but there’re enough heft and terror here to keep me coming back. In fact, this album has inspired me to get up from this couch and head out to organize (ew) my new garage and get my gym set up. This will certainly be the first album I play when I finally get back into the iron game.
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 1411 kbps WAV
Label: Unique Leader Records
Websites: humanityslastbreath.bandcamp.com | humanitys-last-breath.com | facebook.com/humanityslastbreath
Releases Worldwide: August 2nd, 2019