I had a feeling that ABYSMAL DAWN's 2004, three-song demo would be a harbinger of greater things to come. The Los Angeles band's debut full-length for Crash Music, "From Ashes", is ascending quickly into a select group of death metal releases that will receive consideration for a spot on the year-end "best of" list from yours truly (if not an overall selection, then certainly a genre-specific one). "From Ashes" consists of nine irreproachably constructed, moderately blackened death metal with thrash bits that succeeds because of an old school U.S. death metal heart, a modern sensibility, and a keen sense of balancing melody with brutality.
A driving, yet tasteful, minute-and-a-half instrumental opener, "Impending Doom", kicks off the album perfectly. Epic in feel, yet not overstated, the twin harmonies and steady kick drum battery is a suitable introduction to the grandness that awaits. "In the Hands of Death" then races forth with the crackling six-string work of vocalist Charles Elliot and Jamie Boulanger, the colorful dexterity of drummer Terry Barajas, and the active bass playing of session player Mike Bear (Carlos Arriola plays bass in the current lineup). Black metal-like guitar runs, effortless tempo shifts, burning guitar solos, and Elliott's vacillating style of intelligible death growls and throaty screams define much of what is heard on the remaining seven tracks. "Blacken the Sky" boasts what is perhaps the album's most memorable chorus, and a righteously chunky stop-start section bolsters the song. The track's U.S. death metal vibe with Scandinavian embellishments is another example of the seamless blending of genres that occurs throughout the disc. On "Solitude's Demise", a doomy main riff with a slower, dread-filled rhythm builds to a fat riff and black metal harmonies as Barajas flails away underneath, the blend of memorable songwriting and death metal abandon never more apparent. Weepy dual guitars and an opening solo introduce "State of Mind" before a machine-gunning drum break kicks the song into high gear and the boys go straight for the jugular. Even as "Salting the Earth" and "Crown Desire" continue down a similar ravenous road, the sense of care taken in assembling the compositions is apparent. The engineering of John Haddad (EYES OF FIRE, PHOBIA) gives the album plenty of crunch and clarity.
"From Ashes" does not push boundaries, but it is worthy of your attention because of the careful attention to arrangement detail, the ability to keep things interesting without overdoing it, and a knack for writing songs that stick with you. I thoroughly enjoyed this one.