Outre-Tombe – Abysse Mortifère Review

With plenty of death metal nowadays being extremely technical and polished for the sake of technicality and polish – or perhaps for YouTube playthroughs people can show their friends to “prove” that metal is “serious music” – it’s nice to have bands like Quebec’s Outre-Tombe around to push in the opposite direction. No, the consistently killer French-Canadian crew haven’t devolved into Hellhammer levels of un-technicality – awesome as that would probably be – but they have been getting filthier with each release. Nécrovortex ruled, and I told you all it ruled back in 2018. Not to spoil the surprise, but I’m here to tell you the same thing about Outre-Tombe’s third full-length Abysse Mortifère in 2021.

Outre-Tombe plays death metal the old-fashioned way. Since Outre-Tombe is a good French-Canadian death metal band, their take on the style has that classic je ne sais Quebecois about it. Naturally, you’ll hear your Entombed, your Carcass, your Bolt Thrower, and your Autopsy here in the riffs. The vocals have become more feral, sounding like an unhinged van Drunen with a dash of Reifert and Schuldiner – circa Scream Bloody Gore – for good measure. The production has got drier and more unpolished, sounding more than ever like the master tapes were exhumed from the graves of the nineties. This all works in Outre-Tombe’s favor not (just) because I’m a metal Luddite, but because Outre-Tombe clearly knows what they’re doing.

What Outre-Tombe is doing on Abysse Mortifère is playing old-school death metal in a subtly inventive way by freely mixing and matching the techniques and play styles of their influences, making great riffs and songs in ways their influences themselves never would. The title track, which kicks into gear about one minute after some shockingly effective ambience, manages to effortlessly mix playing and riffing styles from Carcass, Entombed, and Bolt Thrower and throw a James Murphy circa Cause of Death solo into the mix for good measure and make the whole endeavor sound not just coherent but compelling and catchy. “Exsangue” kicks off with a riff clearly indebted to Severed Survival but employs a drum pattern underneath it that Reifert wouldn’t use in those circumstances, helping to make it Outre-Tombe’s own. The Autopsy-isms of “Nécrophage” merge compellingly with Carcass type riffs, neither outweighing nor dominating the other, both working in tandem to create quality death metal that sounds at once classic and fresh. “Tombeau De Glace” uses grinding Carcass riffs but plays them like Entombed probably would, giving them more of that punkish intensity the latter baked into their sound so well without delving into early Carcass’ grind infatuations. The brief lead section is wonderfully demented as well, working well as the song’s concluding climax. These are a scant few examples that merely scratch the surface but nonetheless should be enough to give the reader some idea of what he’s in for.

Outre-Tombe have written a smart record that doesn’t try to sound clever. These songs are smartly written to the point where, if you passively listen to the Abysse Mortifère, little truly stands out. This isn’t because of weak riffs, but rather because of a lack of jarring transitions and consistently high-quality riffing. Individual performances avoid pageantry entirely, existing to serve the songs which themselves exist to express Outre-Tombe’s vision of classic death metal. The lead work is unpredictable yet stays just under control, merging chaos and melody exceptionally well. The drums deserve special mention, because Abysse Mortifère is a textbook example of great drumming which isn’t flashy. While the overall playstyles are different, I’m reminded of Donald Tardy on Cause of Death by the happy lack of overplaying and the abundance of propulsive force.

Given how consistently great Outre-Tombe is, I can’t say whether Abysse Mortifère is my favorite record of theirs, or even if it’s an improvement over NecroVortex. I think this is a good problem to have. What I can say is that they’re growing into their identity more and more with each release, finding both a musical and visual aesthetic that suits them well and sets them apart without being gimmicky. If you weren’t on board with Outre-Tombe in 2018, there’s no time like the present to discover the band behind one of 2021’s true death metal gems and give it the time and attention it so richly deserves.

Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Temple of Mystery Records
Website: facebook.com/Outre-Tombe
Releases Worldwide: October 31st, 2021

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