Label: Third I Rex
It can be quite a relief when the promo materials for an album are so refreshingly honest. In stark contrast with the hordes of second-wave imitators or old-school death metal acts who claim to be taking their chosen genres in new direction, Wrnss, the debut album from Italian band Abisso, is accompanied by promo text that is right on the money. It’s not a hugely groundbreaking record in terms of style – something the promo materials acknowledge head-on – but the mix of Deathspell Omega-esque black metal and subtle industrial elements is certainly interesting, and holds long-lasting appeal. It makes Wrnss an album that lives up to the expectations of its influences, but also has plenty to say itself; a clear case of inspiration rather than imitation.
Whilst Deathspell Omega are, undeniably, one of the biggest names and influences when it comes to modern black metal, it’s unusual to hear a band so overly drawing inspiration from them. Most acts will throw in a few hints of discord here and there, casting subtle glances at those French titans as if in the hopes no one will notice. Abisso take a very different approach, and embrace whole-heartedly the soul-searing wrongness that make Deathspell Omega such a well-regarded band. They never come across as being in the shadow of their more well-known peers though, and Abisso’s own identity is clear from the outset. The almost post-rock sections that had the mainstream music media fawning over Fas – Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum are absent, though Abisso do not lack for dynamics and texture; they may be wrapped in dizzyling complex structures and deeply unsettling atmospheres, but there are strong metal songs forming the structure on which the band build. There are even hints of Mgla at times, most notable during closer “V”.
As would be hoped for from a black metal album of this style, Wrnss does not present all of its strengths up-front, and many aspects and subtle features only become more readily apparent after several listens. Giving yourself time to adjust and adapt to the sound and atmosphere of the album is key, especially as even the relatively sparse moments are heavy in dread and a malevolent atmosphere – see the closing moments of “III” for a prime example. The tempo is slowed and the music becomes slightly more spacious, but it only serves to highlight how dreadful (in the best possible way) the album is. Then there are the more intense, full-on moments, which can be absolutely punishing both in ways typically expected of extreme metal – with pummeling drums, vicious guitars, and harsh vocals full of power and command – or, as during “IV”, in more progressive, almost avant-garde ways, with guitar and bass movements that show a remarkable contempt for convention. It’s further evidence of how Abisso take what their influences have done, but produce something that is so clearly their own.
Perhaps what impresses me most of all about Wrnss is how it pulls you in to its world with such ease. It may be a difficult listen, but even the first play is highly rewarding, and it only gets better from there. The initial rush of head-spinning excitement is joined by a growing understanding with each listen, and that long-lasting appeal is something so many other black metal records aiming for this kind of discord fail to achieve. There is a lot at play on this album, and much of it only becomes revealed with time. If you’re looking for a black metal album full of confidence, darkness, and that you won’t get bored of after the initial thrill has gone, then Wrnss will serve you well.
Wrnss can be streamed, downloaded, and purchased on CD via Bandcamp.