When you have had the pleasure of reviewing an EP as inspirational as Abysse’s mind-melting debut, ‘emptiness is shaped’, then it is not surprising that a little apprehension creeps in when dealing with the follow-up. We needn’t have worried. Abysse, France’s answer to the Red Sparrowes, have not only ably crafted a sequel to ‘Emptiness is shaped’ but they have gone on to create a full-length record of such fiery splendour that it easily fulfils the early promise of that record, highlighting Abysse’s ability to range the sonic ground from unearthly calm to blazing, full on guitar rawk whilst maintain interest even over songs that stretch towards the nine-minute mark.
‘En(d)grave’ offers seven tracks and a thousand moods over the course of its forty-five minute run time. Here you will find epic journeys in purely instrumental form, capturing the haunting elegance and subtle menace of Napoleon’s Eagles on the march. Fans familiar with Mogwai’s rippling guitars will find much to enjoy here but where Mogwai time and again pull back from the brink of the monumental, Abysse excel in gargantuan riffs that swell and flow like tidal waves racing towards an unprepared shoreline, eventually washing over everything, consuming all in their path. ‘Eagle of Haast’ opens the album and whilst it builds at a slow pace, the band taking their time as they work through post-rock’s outer-lying defences before storming the walls with riffs hewn from solid stone. It’s post-rock with a virulent, metallic edge that is all the better for the torrential percussion which beats down upon the listener’s head with ever-increasing ferocity as the song reaches its end. ‘Ten thousand changes’ segues straight out of the first track and proceeds to trample roughshod over your finer feelings with a hobnailed boot and a battery of fast paced percussion before relaxing to let you catch your breath. Slower moments are short-lived, however, and Abysse soon have you hooked as they draw you off on another voyage that spends at least as much time looking to the stars with its dense, hypnotically fast riffs reaching into black metal territory sans the misanthropy . ‘Mastadon’, with its huge riffs and monumental solos, meanwhile, does a good job of pulling in the heavy progressive vibe of its namesake, as does the brilliantly progressive ‘forest monument’ with its wild solos and churning bass lines.
‘Sharp and chrome’ is one of only two short songs here (the other being ‘mastadon’), and unlike the lengthier excursions here it goes straight for the jugular with huge swathes of guitar cutting right through the atmospheric meandering of the longer tracks and providing metal fans with plenty to get their teeth into – imagine Mogwai jamming with Megadeth and Mastadon and you have a fair idea of the gnarly, metallic world the music springs from and it is wonderfully enthralling. ‘Golden life’ slows the pace once more to a tool-esque chug, the central rhythm designed to rock the body in slow-motion even as the lead guitars writhe and creep across the surface, evaporating into thin air just as you think you’ve got a handle on them, only to reappear unexpectedly a moment later – it is a seven minute journey full of riddles and half-solved mysteries that keeps you guessing right up until you hit final track ‘light for Wheke’ which closes the album in suitably cinematic fashion. Indeed, not only does ‘light for Wheke’ close the album but it provides the climactic relief that is so desperately needed after the tense dynamic thrust of ‘golden life’. Here there are massive crushing riffs, Opeth-referencing solos that wail plaintively over the dense wall of sound and an aching melody that is awash with passion and power.
Overall it is clear that Abysse have built firmly upon the solid foundation laid down by their quite excellent EP and crafted a record of real intelligence and power. full of epic moments and gentle mystery, you’ll find yourself adrift as the music washes in and drags you out to see leaving you there to stare blankly at the stars wondering only when salvation will come. Dramatic, beautiful and, when needs be, savage this is a record with claws even if those claws are tucked away inside a velvet paw. With stunning cover art once again, Abysse just keep getting better – here’s to seeing them live in the UK soon, but for the time being sate your appetite with this excellent record.
Did we give this album a fair review? Check for yourself with this embedded player: