Things You Might Have Missed 2015: Okazaki Fragments – Abandoned

Okazaki-Fragments_AbandonedIf Luc Lemay wrote a deathgrind album, the early demos would sound something like Okazaki Fragments. Earlier this year, the Calgary-based extreme metal outfit’s debut Abandoned blindsided me like a drive-by at Tim Horton’s by mixing rabid grindcore with the avant-garde tendencies of Gorguts and Pyrrhon in search of an ever more deformed and disgusting style of death metal. They found it.

Tightly controlled yet vicious and chaotic, Abandoned makes no attempt at easy entry or popular appeal. In true-to-form grind fashion, the entire LP lasts just over 20 minutes and not a second is wasted; the band reels from Gorguts-style loping, atonal riffs to grinding groove reminiscent of Pig Destroyer with reckless abandon all guided by a dichotomy of gurgled and hoarsely screamed vocals. Wrenching itself into existence, “Abandoned” goes right at you, writhing through variations on a sickly mixed-meter opening riff and opening into a cut-time sprawl under the thin Himalayan atmosphere of Colored Sands.

The band’s command of  rhythm is absolutely stunning; in an album replete with tricky time and tempo shifts, they pull off every switch with immaculate precision, deftly cauterizing the tail end of each riff without a drop spilling over. Yet there’s also a freedom to the performances that recalls the squirming riffs of Pyrrhon or the cymbal play of Ulcerate’s Jamie St. Merat; drum fills are sporadic and flow between phrases rather than over them. “Abominations” almost swings at times, while “Huddled Masses” strings along a garroted sense of melody that doesn’t seem to stay put; the entire album balances at the edge of Euclidean geometry, teetering back and forth like a drinking bird peering into the beyond.

Okazaki Fragments_2015

All of this would mean nothing were it not for the band’s sense of drama; the riffs aren’t complex for the sake of technicality, but swing between the unthinkable and merely obtuse with a constant lurch that drags you along with it. Individual bars play out like songs in and of themselves, bursting with recondite drama among compelling convexities. And while the riffs are perilous enough alone, it’s Brian Gillingham’s drumming that cements all of this uncontrolled order into a monolith of spiraling oppression. His creative manhandling of rhythm is a must-hear, compelling in its near complete rejection of traditionally blastbeat-driven deathgrind.

Even in the growing Obscura-worshiping death metal scene, Abandoned is nearly peerless; more focused than Pyrrhon and just as unsettling, it’s one of the year’s best releases and I was stricken to learn that the band has called it quits. If you fancy yourself some truly difficult but compelling and intricate grindcore or death metal, Abandoned will wholly fail to disappoint.

Tracks to Check: “Abandoned,” “Vermin,” “Huddled Masses,” “As the Planet Falls”

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