When Chthonic arrived I noted in the review that one of the best things about the job of reviewing music was the discovery of bands you may not otherwise hear. This double-disc work by Swedish band Abandon is a case in point – a dark, overwhelming masterpiece encompassing eleven tracks and over a hundred minutes in length, it’s an album that I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to hear and, given that the band’s singer tragically passed away in 2008, it is remarkable that it was finished at all (the band bravely decided to complete and issue the album as a memorial to their fallen comrade) and ‘The dead end’ provides an awesomely powerful and fitting tribute.
Taking their cue from bands such as Neurosis and Crowbar, Abandon open with ‘Bitter the surface’, a melody swamped in noise and feedback that swells through your speakers until reaching breaking point and lurching ferociously into ‘Pitch black hole’, which opens with a heavily distorted bass line that recalls nothing more than the sinister sound of the Martian War machines in Jeff Wayne’s ‘War of the worlds’ set. With the life support monotony of the bass offset by discordant guitar, everything takes gloriously brutal shape when the vocals and drums come clattering in, to reveal Abandon’s none-more-brutal take on doom and sludge metal. Late singer Johan Carlzon is possessed of a voice that is almost inhuman in its terrifying rawness, a fearsome, growling, smoke ravaged roar of monolithic proportions, he is one of the few singers out there who could give Khanate a run for their money, and the music raging around him gives him the perfect sonic platform from which to launch his orations. ‘Lost we are’ slows the pace to a crawl, with a single guitar chiming out in slow-mo, before the band crash in, creating an atmosphere of utmost foreboding, while Johan’s scratchy voice crawls over it, spitting rage and despair into the void: “Lost we are…this is madness, soon to swallow all, lost we are, lost…” . It is a testament to the skill of the musicians involved that the music, while unremittingly bleak at the outset contains a glimmer of hope within the melody of the pump organ that keeps the music listenable while still darkly atmospheric.
‘Falling into place’ is more straight forward, being both faster and leaner than the earlier tracks. Johan’s roar tops a blistering performance from drummer Daniele Cosimi that sees him smashing his cymbals into smithereens while the organ pours on distinctive and crushing chords to create a truly claustrophobia-inducing wall of sound. ‘Eulogy’ (the first of two tracks named as such) is a genuine surprise and departure, actually contriving to sound like Low’s slow-core missives, rather than a metal band and it offers a glimpse of the loss these prodigiously talented musicians have suffered as well as a moment of respite from the desolate and violent tracks found elsewhere. ‘In reality suffer’ closes disc 1 with a wall of sonic carnage that spits and rages at the listener for eleven minutes. It’s a dense and brutal workout that leaves you drained and yet ready to embrace the dark horrors of disc 2.
Disc 2 opens with the delightful ‘For crumbs we crawl’, a perfectly phrased lament played on guitar that showcases the skills of guitarist Ingvar Sandgren. It’s a beautiful and poignant track which doesn’t need lyrics to expose the sense of loss that runs deep within it. ‘The dead end’ , at thirteen minutes, opens with the ominous sound of the pump organ being wound up to full blast, before the band come in, creating a funeral march of monumental proportions (the closest description I can offer is Sunn O))) playing at the burial of a monarch) that rises out of its misery thanks to a melody that develops slowly out of the noise. ‘It’s all gone’ is even longer at seventeen minutes, and after decimating your eardrums for a minute or so it dissolves into a quiet, contemplative piece that is torn apart by Johan’s vicious vocal. A lengthy, complex workout, it’s an astonishing centre-piece to the disc and yet it still isn’t the longest track on offer. ‘There is no escape’ is a nasty dirge that is aptly summed up by its title. A terrifying work of dense atmospherics and clawing doom it makes the skin crawl over its eight minutes and then we are faced with the second ‘Eulogy’, an eighteen minute work that has more akin with the controlled structure of a classical piece than with metal. Opening with funereal organ, the band don’t appear until seven minutes in, and then don’t hurry the pace.
‘The dead end’ is a masterpiece, a thrilling, distressing, enervating work of dark art that sits comfortably with bands like Swans, Neurosis and Sunn O))). Recorded, and certainly finished, in what must have been the bleakest moments of despair, Abandon have crafted a timeless album that is the most fitting of tributes to their lost singer and which is shockingly raw with emotion and grief. Certainly not an album for everyone – it offers no quick fix and undoubtedly some listeners will find the whole package too dark for their tastes both musically and thematically, for those who have the stomach it is a rewarding ride. Immaculately packaged in a digi-pack with grimly apt art-work, if you have a taste for doom then this is a record well worth finding. Captivating.