It’s been four years since Massachusetts’s Abnormality released their debut Contaminating the Hive Mind, which is a long time for a band dedicated to technical-flavored, ‘droid-stomping death metal. You’d think that the speed of the music (and label requirements) would lead to more frequent releases, but thit isn’t the case. Surprisingly, Abnormality are already a decade old. For them, this means that the release of their second album, Mechanisms of Omniscience, is less of an obligation and more of an artistic compulsion. While the time away might lead you to think that the second album would be a revelation, Mechanisms sticks to the same plan as the debut, with the same goals.
There are some stylistic upgrades, but largely Abnormality carried on with what they started – its wheedly-wheedly death metal with technical arrangements, without being too extreme in any regard, save for being really loud and overly polished. What do I mean? All ten songs have explosive start points that progress towards some kind of megaton conclusion – they start loud and end almost deafeningly. The guitars are technical without being wanky, a mixture of honed riffs and discernible solos without caustic note-spraying or oodles of senseless passages intent on showing off. With the everything-to-the-max mixing, the bass lumbers through and adds dollops of groove without landing in ignorant slam territory. The powerful vocals are main attraction, as they’re truly capable of triggering that rumble in your gut, but they’re largely amelodic and accordingly pitched towards the guttural without getting into toilet-scraping gurgling. The drums punch evenly, every bass and snare strike alike, carefully machined for consistency. The whole sound is distinctly metal, a Matrix-inspired nightmare whose significance is just as deep. You’ll also find an injection of flashy studio effects in a portion of each song, whether it be some electro-cross fade on the guitars or robo-chanting. Those stylistic touches match the overall metallic sheen to the sound, the painstaking scrubbing that attempts to add dangerous spikes to every note but actually has the opposite effect through sheer quantity. It’s like running afoul of a wasp’s nest, where none of the individual stings matter much compared to the event itself. Mechanisms rages, it roars, it’s as heavy as anything else these days, and every second seems tailored to mosh-tastic pit-riffment shenanigans.
That’s Mechanisms’ fault and also a recommendation – this is almost forty minutes of good ‘modern’ death metal, nothing more, and nothing less. It will go over well in a live setting where the weight of the music can batter the crowd about. If you’re just giving it time on the stereo, though, you might not find it as engaging. There are moments of greatness that justify at least a few listens, but they’re elusive, with the whole album managing to sound, well, just loud. After many spins I can think of particular moments which impressed me, but I’ll be damned if I can remember which songs they were a part of without measuring my progress on the track list. It’s even hard to notice that you’re in the midst of a great section until you’re a few measures in, but when they do happen, you realize that Abnormality can move past bland, hyper-loud songwriting. It just doesn’t happen very often. There are some efforts to stretch out through two brief vocal-free interludes which go for a more atmospheric slow-n-low approach, but because these snippets aren’t connected to the songs they bookend in any way, they mostly feel like unfinished business.
Ultimately, Abnormality’s latest doesn’t signify much, except for themselves. You know what, though? It doesn’t have to. Mechanisms doesn’t have to rock year end lists, sell a bazillion copies, or even become a critical darling. All this album has to do is provide a creative output for the band and give them an excuse to play live. It’ll put them on some tours; let them to sell some cool merch; get pushed in the bigger metal mags thanks to Metal Blade dollars; start some circle pits; and really just allow them to have a chance to keep being Abnormality. Nothing more, nothing less, and nothing wrong with that.