Artist: Abysmal Dawn
Album Title: Nightmare Frontier EP
Label: Season Of Mist
Date of Release: 4 February 2022
It seems that I’ve been slow on the uptake again. Forming nearly twenty years ago, Californian death metal band Abysmal Dawn have released five full-length albums and I’m unable to say that I’ve heard any of them. And, based on the content of this short-but-sweet four track EP, I can’t for the life of me think why I’ve let them pass me by. If you could climb inside my head and see what’s inside, you’d quickly realise that where ‘straight-up’ death metal is concerned, Abysmal Dawn hit my favoured sweet spot.
Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Charles Elliott, guitarist Vito Petroni, bassist Eliseo Garcia, and drummer James Coppolino, Abysmal Dawn get the balance just about spot on for my tastes. It is brutal, but technically very adept, whilst containing just about the perfect amount of melody and groove to keep me interested. In fact, I find the music on this EP really rather addictive, pressing repeat almost at will. And when we’re talking death metal (not melodeath, tech death, or prog death – all of which I more naturally gravitate towards), that’s unusual for me.
Apparently, ‘A Nightmare Slain’ was recorded during the ‘Phylogenesis’ writing process, their fifth full-length, released in 2020. If that’s the case, I need that record in my life as soon as possible. ‘A Nightmare Slain’ comes out of the blocks swinging, with blastbeats and a fast, scything blackened death riff that carries a touch of melody, immediately catching my attention. The intense battery is nicely broken up with different ideas and changes of pace, conjuring thoughts that it is a vaguely progressive track. Fast, ripping solos enter as the track develops too, as well as sections of meaty groove, meaning that every ingredient I like in this form of metal is present and correct.
Track two, ‘Blacken The Sky’ is equally as impressive, whilst having a different overall feel. It’s darker, more foreboding, but equally as extreme and combative. It also carries a melodic edge, again just enough to keep my attention but without sacrificing the aggression and brutality. I love the solos, as well as the clever tempo shifts to maintain a dramatic flair.
Sadly, in terms of new, original material, that’s your lot for ‘Nightmare Frontier’ because the final two tracks are covers. I’m usually a real grump when it comes to bands recording cover versions, because I’d always prefer to hear original material instead. However, in the case of this EP, the Americans can be somewhat forgiven. The first of the covers is a favourite of mine, namely ‘Behind Space’ by In Flames. It was released back in 1994 on the ‘Lunar Strain’ record before being re-recorded, renamed ‘Behind Space ‘99’ and released on the ‘Colony’ album. Those iconic melodies and waltz-like grooves of the original remain, but the Abysmal Dawn guys add their own stamp, making it utterly irresistible, including guest orchestration from Deeds Of Flesh’s Craig Peters to top it all off.
The final track is a significant change of pace, as it’s Abysmal Dawn’s version of ‘Bewitched’ by Candlemass. Not only does it see a slowing of the tempo in what’s a relatively faithful rendition of the original, but it also features clean vocals from Elliott. I wasn’t expecting that, but it works, even if overall, this is my least favourite track on the EP.
And that’s it, really. If you’re already a fan of Abysmal Dawn, you’ll lap this EP up. If, like me, you’ve been an idiot and not checked them out previously, then wrap your ears around ‘Nightmare Frontier’, as it’s the perfect short, sharp introduction to a great death metal band. Damnit, I have another back catalogue to investigate – first world problems, eh?!
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my other 2022 reviews here:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: