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Abyssal Frost – Antarsia

Abyssal Frost
Antarsia
by Andrew Graham at 15 January 2021, 7:22 PM

Coming hot out of Atlanta, Georgia, blackened death metallers ABYSSAL FROST pound listeners firmly into the ground with their debut EP release, Antarsia. These gents flirt with, and parry playfully and seamlessly between, the two extremes of death and black metal. Admittedly the go-to for many people when they hear ‘blackened death metal’ is BEHEMOTH (it just is!). However, that seamless blend of the two is not what we have here: we bounce back and forth between the two. What we have here is not a confused state of serial non-commitment between the two genres but a masterful pick ‘n’ mix of stylistic elements of both, combined into a beautiful monster!

We open with atmospheric track “The Abyss”, where creaks, distant wind, rain and thunder tease at the ears, before we fade into “The Orphan”. Here we are presented with a catalogue of the finest elements and tropes of our favourite death metal bands from our childhood (from my childhood anyway!) nicely divided up with black metal choice cuts.

We then flow seamlessly into “The Cronos” – in fact, most of the tracks flow so closely into each other that it feels more like chapters of a story, which is the intention. There’s a story if you look at the lyrics and it demands to be “read” front to back in its entirety. We are lulled by haunting tremolo riffs that sail majestically, yet frighteningly, above the solid drum and bass foundation. Throaty bass opens “The Surgeon”, lending a pinch of ominous to the material at hand (it’s death metal and the song’s called “The Surgeon”, go figure!) One is reminded of the finer, tastier moments of giants like CANNIBAL CORPSE or MORBID ANGEL – these guys know their craft very well! This is a real stand-out song and no mistake.

“The Mutiny” opens with almost mournful melodic lines before vocals kick in. there’s plenty of dissonance here that black metal connoisseurs will recognise immediately. Indeed, the blackness is very strong on this track, the slider was turned up for this one! Almost like a mirror image, the track ends with all the dissonance and disquiet it opened with.

All this prepares the listener for album closer “The Cannibal”. We begin with a deranged acoustic opening complimented with distressed distorted guitar sailing in the background, which transforms into a full-force aural assault. Telling the final part of the gruesome story this EP tells (just look up the lyrics, trust me!) it ends us on a morbid and hopeless note, fitting really! We close with the same ominous nautical sound effects that opened the EP, leaving us with the feeling of listlessness and isolation that we began with.

This has all the trappings of a really satisfying short horror story (think almost anything by H.P. Lovecraft – this isn’t just a random example, the Lovecraftian element is very palpable) and you have the right idea: a stand-alone, yet dense piece that leaves us with that tantalising feeling of unease that horror addicts live for! This stands out not only for its brutality but also for its intelligence and thoughtfulness. If we liken concept albums to novels, then this is a short story. Literature shows that short stories can deliver every bit as much as a full-length. The same applies here: this band deserves your attention!

Songwriting: 8
Musicianship: 8
Memorability: 9
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

Tracklist:
  1. The Abyss
  2. The Orphan
  3. The Cronos
  4. The Surgeon
  5. The Mutiny
  6. The Cannibal
Lineup:
Sheldon Smith – Vocals
Kenan Kerr – Guitars and Bass
John Stone – Lyrics, Vocal Arrangement
Scott Shelton – Drums
Record Label: Grinding Ice Records
     


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