Abyssus - Once Entombed [Transcending Obscurity - 2016]Greek death merchants, Abyssus, start 2016 with a compilation release on Transcending Obscurity. With 19 tracks from four prior releases, Once Entombed is a great vehicle for fans to check out Abyssus' earlier work. An energetic tribute to the death metal of old, Abyssus will have you banging your head and raising your fists.
Starting with their latest split, Once Entombed rocks front to back with old school fury (including an Exploited cover). Fronted with barks and growls that would make John Tardy's mother confused, "Phobos" is a great start to this compilation. Low, crunchy riffs and mid-paced drums are Abyssus' vessel of choice to deliver their death metal wares. This segues into their half of the split with Morbider (HA! *writes name under Deathchain*), and the grim thrashing continues. Buzzsawing their way through four originals and a Sodom cover, Abyssus plays their brand of old-school, no frills death with aplomb. After this, things take a grittier turn in the production realm. The material from their split with Nocturnal Vomit (haha really? Where's that list I was making) has four more originals (one repeat) and another cover. While not as cleanly recorded as the previous tracks, this one has a certain character to it that adds to the recording. The drums have a more natural, live sound, and the slight bit of dirt on the recording reminds us of what we're really listening to: throwback, underground death. Interestingly, the next set of tracks, though older, sounds cleaner. And, despite taking its name from a Slayer song, doesn't sound remotely close...which is either good or bad, depending on what you're looking for. These last few tracks are definitely stompier and have more of a mid/late 90's vibe to them (compared to the older sounding new tracks), and definitely feel out of place on this compilation. It's cool to hear how Abyssus sounded when they started, and I like the tracks quite a bit, but they definitely throw off the flow.
Over the past few years, there has been a big return to the old school death sound. Whether it's subtly in design like Abyssus or in your face like Gruesome, it shows that this nascent period was hugely influential and still popular. Once Entombed displays the evolution of Abyssus' sound, and, while it's fairly generic (even down to the inclusion of a cover on each release), it's done well and with spirit. Paul Casey