Better late than never…
Having already written a review of this band’s latest EP (which you can check out here), I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the ‘deathgrind’ stylings of Belgium’s Aborted. Despite enduring a revolving door of band members in their two-decade long existence, the band have really established themselves as one of the key names in the Europe death metal scene. Since 2012’s Global Flatline, the band has been on a hot streak- all their releases from that point onwards have been excellent. In fact, their previous LP The Necrotic Manifesto was probably one of their best releases (unless you favour early works such as Goremaggedon: The Saw and The Carnage Done): they seamlessly blended their guttural, grinding death metal with an excellent production and songwriting that just made every riff, drum track and vocal sound crushing yet measured and precise. Having set such a high standard it’s intriguing to see if they’ve matched, or even surpassed, expectations on latest opus Retrogore.
Broadly speaking, Retrogore is a continuation from Manifesto– the band still blasts and grinds with their usual fervour, but their audio assault is tempered by a precise and clinical quality. I suppose you could say that they’re the sonic equivalent of being brutally disembowelled with a surgical scalpel- there’s a certain delicacy and attention to detail to their visceral antics. However, rather than just rewriting Manifesto the band have instead opted to broaden their palette and experiment with atmosphere and grooves. Songs like the title track or “Divine Impediment” swell with a grandiose darkness that is delightfully unnerving, whilst a track like “Whoremaggedon” has a chorus that slams and pummels the listener into the ground. Sure, its sick and twisted- but its wickedly fun in equal measure.
I think a big part of what makes Aborted, and Retrogore, work so well is that the band handles the basics really well. You can be the most technically gifted band ever, but if you can’t use that to craft some good songs then all that talent is wasted. Whilst Aborted certainly have the musical chops, they don’t let the quality of their songs suffer through any self-indulgence on any of the band member’s parts. The band have also shown that they can competently handle techniques such as breakdowns or samples. Normally these are treated as gimmicks or a quick fix for a lack of creativity (just think of most metalcore bands that utilized the same breakdown and an ill-fitting sample from a film), but on Retrogore Aborted show that they can be effective tools to either punctuate their brutality, or to create an atmosphere or feeling. You can hear this in songs such as “Cadaverous Banquet” or “Bit By Bit”, where the horror film snippets introduces the song’s subject matter and really allows for the listener to immerse themselves and be enveloped in the story and material.
This notion of the music captivating the listener also stretches into the musicianship displayed by each of the band members. The pairing of guitarists Mendel bij de Leij and Ian Jekelis, along with bassist JB van der Wal ensures that the riffs are crisp, tight and memorable- a trait that is often overlooked in death metal. Sven de Caluwe puts in a monstrous performance as always, ensuring that a whole spectrum of vocal styles are strategically and effectively deployed (see “Termination Redux” to get a feel for his diverse range of screams, growls and croaks). A special mention should go to drummer Ken Bedene, whose insanely inhuman drumming keeps the songs exciting and brimming with energy. In fact, I can see Retrogore as being a big influence to death metal musicians in the same way as Cannibal Corpse’s Tomb Of The Mutilated. Both albums showcase impressive and highly-skilled musicianship that is coupled with strong songwriting- Tomb would go on to influence many a modern day death metal band, and I feel that Retrogore could achieve something similar.
Overall, you could say that Retrogore is everything you could hope for in a good ol’ death metal romp- and more. It has a certain morbidly satisfying quality, much in the same way as a gory B-movie horror film: its chilling and visceral nature is offset by the exuberance and sheer fun of the experience. This is death metal done with style, and delivered with an enthusiasm that is hard not to like.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? What albums should I review next? Feel free to leave a comment, like this blog post, and follow this blog for more content.