Aborted – Vault of Horrors


Aborted are like your favourite sports bar that didn’t bother to change its food menu or range of beers over the last decade. You like the comfortable familiarity of the place and the people that patronise it, but you wonder when it lost its sheen. We praised their reliability on their last outing when reviewing 2021’s Maniacult: ‘Like Vader, the metal world needs its soldiers for the cause. Aborted won’t reach any further milestones or win new accolades, but they can be proud of their contribution to the cause with this LP.’ It’s hard to be as kind to album number twelve despite its glittering array of guests.

Familiarity can breed content as well as contempt, but there are no risks on this record. That’s what deprives it of repeat listening value. Opener, ‘Dreadbringer’, highlights this problem with painful clarity. Here, a creeping synth bass and spooky keyboard pave the way for a terrific blast of destructive death metal with tremolo rhythms that rip through the fretboard. Yet the road-drill drum production relegates the guitars to a secondary instrument in the faster parts. We’re three minutes in, and it’s already easy to switch off. Fortunately, a stupendous breakdown with razor sharp drum accents focuses the attention. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with the guitar production during the down-picking sections. But, in all honesty, what distinguishes this from any other modern death metal song?

‘Condemned to Rot’ holds out more promise with a guest appearance from Francesco Paoli of Fleshgod Apocalypse, but the instruments are too precise to create the sense of chaos the band want to achieve. Why does this sound like extreme metal on autopilot? We know that Aborted influenced bands like Whitechapel, but ‘Brotherhood of Sleep’ sounds like death metal trying to be deathcore. The only interesting aspect of this music is the crunchy riffing in the spiky sections where the drummer lays off the blast beats.

You can’t accuse founding member, Sven de Caluwé, or any of his guests of being lazy in their vocal approach on this record, yet nothing stands out, either. On an intrinsic level, this record should be a triumph, but it’s impossible for music like this to surprise you, despite its awesome hyper-blasting siege of your brain. You’ve heard it too many times before, to the point where you become desensitised to something that might have shocked you twenty years ago.

Or course, not everything is mediocre. You expect ‘Hellbound’ to sound just like Cryptopsy’s last record when you see that Matt McGachy is the guest vocalist, but it blazes like a blackened death metal song in the hands of technical musicians. A sweep-picking solo expands the timbres of the mid-section. Jason Evans of Ingested collaborates with Sven on ‘Insect Politics’ to recreate the terror of a train driver as he realises that a head-on collision is imminent and unescapable. ‘The Golgothan’ makes good use of keyboard organs for added dramatic effect. It feels like the Book of Revelations has come to life.

This record’s biggest flaw is its stubborn once-dimensional celebration of speed over substance. It says a lot when the deathcore breakdowns are the best features in the songs. Closing track, ‘Malevolent Haze’, sums up this album. It’s like sending in the special forces to deal with a supermarket thief. As a bystander, you stand back and let the professionals do their job, but you wonder if they’re necessary.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 15/03/2024

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Standout tracks: Death Cult, Hellbound, The Golgothan

Suggested Further Listening: Scordatura – Mass Failure (2020), Ingested – Ashes Lie Still (2022), Carnifex – Necromanteum (2023)