Saturday, September 15, 2012

Aborted - Global Flatline (2012)

Aborted have long been a project close to my heart. Though I was aware of, and interested in, these sick Belgian death metal surgeons through a number of years and releases, it was 2007’s divisive Slaughter and Apparatus: A Methodical Overture that cemented them as genre favorites. Cries of dissent rose from the faithful at the inclusion of melodic, almost Gothenberg-style elements, but for my twisted, black little heart it was just tits, being a huge fan of both straight death and melodeath at the time. However, like so many others, the puzzling follow-up Strychnine.213 sent a number of warning flags flying in my brain, as the band had seemingly dumbed down their relentless assault a bit too far, skirting the border of a nightmarish land of agony and blood-stained compositional fecal mounds that metalheads fear to tread, a realm of disease that can unwittingly spread to even the most pure of projects. I speak, of course, of the subgenre entitled deathcore. To be fair, the album wasn’t bad, but the implications were a bit frightening. As it turns out, we need not have worried.

4 years and a complete band change later (excepting vocalist and band leader Sven de Caluwe), a practice that has become too commonplace is the world of Aborted, we have received the cure to what ails you, in case Strychnine had given you the disheartening deathcore sniffles. Indeed, it’s genuinely pleasing to report that Aborted have returned to those stomping grounds of yesteryear, having stitched together a wonderfully diverse monstrosity with Global Flatline. Alongside the new Cryptopsy, it does my heart good to welcome back not one, but two legendary death metal bands back into the folds of good taste (though Aborted only stepped into crap-town for a smoke and a chat, while Cryptopsy up and moved shop).

Under first impressions, it felt like the band had gone back to the purely intense, unstoppable chainsaw grindhouse they inhabited up through Goremageddon, but shovel deeper into this inviting grave and it becomes clear that Aborted have logically attempted to unite their various influences under the banner of brutality. The songs are much more structured than your average cut from the early years, and are a bit easier to listen to and comprehend, without feeling in any way like a cop out. There is more than enough hurried blasting, but the songs are well constructed, flowing nicely between the obligatory merciless bludgeoning and a predilection toward ingrained melody circa Slaughter and Apparatus, and even a bevy of choppy, rhythmic infatuations from Strychnine, though they are surrounded by a lot more window dressing in the form of strong riffing and truly inventive solo’s.

There is an impressive array of songs on display here, each with an identity of its own, thanks to an even parsing out of strong riffing ideas and the ceaselessly inventive drumming of Ken Bedene. Global Flatline starts ripping up corpses right out of the gate with unchained hacking and chopping. The Origin of Disease needles along with psychotic precision into a melodic, alien midsection. Shorter tracks like Fecal Forgery and Of Scabs and Boils are rhythmic clinics and skewering riffing vortexes, while Expurgation Euphoria and Endstille paint epic scenes of apocalyptic, gore-ravaged earth. Every track has something different on offer, and all impress equally, without a loser in the bunch.

A number of guest vocalists pepper the production, including Julien from Benighted, Jason from Misery Index, and Trevor from Black Dahlia Murder, a personal favorite, though I wish he’d had a bigger part to play than the small consideration in Vermicular, Obscene, Obese, just one of the happy ditties featured on Global Flatline. As one would no doubt expect, the lyrics are as sick as ever, continuing to take cues from the Carcass school of medical death metal in concocting lyrical dissertations on situations of extreme medical conditions, stories exploding like pustular pockets of rancid feces and other appetizing conditions. Ready the white coats, as a glance at fun song titles such as Fecal Forgery and From a Tepid Whiff will make the sphincter quiver in anticipation.

I did have a slight issue with the production. The instruments are all quite balanced and audible, but as usual within metal, the bass could have used a boost in volume. Besides that predictable aspect, however, I feel that Sven’s vocals, particularly his throaty, incomprehensible growls, sound very unnatural here. There is some kind of obscuring studio effect that really steals the raw savagery from the man, and it’s an issue that remains prevalent throughout, a constant irritation. Also, like most frantic death metal, it will take a number of spins in order to truly appreciate, and it continues to grow on me; always a good sign.

So, aside from a couple minor annoyances, I’d have to say that Global Flatline is exactly what Aborted needed at this stage of their career, a balanced, well-produced, modern bludgeoning that both strengthens and freshens up their established sound. Slaughter and Apparatus has been my favorite Aborted album since its release, and it still edges this one out, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this could change, given time. My enjoyment of it is about equal to Archaic Abbatoir and Goremageddon at the moment, but I find I like it more all the time, so it could very well surpass those albums, a real feat. I can’t believe I’m typing that, but that’s the present truth of it. Time will tell, though. Time always tells. It’s certainly their best sounding record by a mile. Truly, I can’t think of who wouldn’t enjoy this one, unless you just dislike death metal altogether.  If you’re a prior fan, and don’t think Aborted have been doing enough rampant killing of late, this will probably satiate your blood thirst. It’s the same story if you’ve been with the band this whole time, like me, and as it’s such a balanced mix of their established elements, it’s also a sweet place to start for any new worshippers. Don’t you love it when everybody wins?

8.5 / 10 - As I Dissect and Reform