Who remembers when Aborym were the most divisive band in extreme metal and the most hyped? Terrorizer magazine awarded their 2001 effort, Fire Walk With Us!, a perfect 10 out of 10 score and included 2003’s With No Human Intervention in its album of the year list. Back then black metal needed a kick up the ass, and these Italians looked like the most promising outfit to shake things up with their industrial interpretation of the Norwegian sound. With Mayhem’s Attila Csihar on vocals during these glory years and controversial Emperor drummer, Bård G. “Faust” Eithun, providing the beats as late as 2014, Aborym have few rivals when it comes to extreme metal pedigree. So, we can expect a return to their glitchy black metal assault with an album called Hostile, right?
Like 2017’s fascinating Shifting.Negative, the group’s eighth album contains no traces of their black metal roots and continues their evolution into a genuine collective of songwriters. This means we get choruses and orthodox structures wrapped in dazzling studio wizardry and heavily distorted rock guitars. The standard of composition is high, like a band tied to a major label in the late 1990s with a brief to replicate the sales figures of Nine Inch Nails. Only, it works, and the end product is far superior to anything Trent Reznor has put his name to since The Fragile.
You might roll your eyes at opening song, ‘Disruption’. Don’t worry, we’re not in for an hour of Massive Attack trip-hop, even though lead songwriter, Fabban, makes a point of demonstrating his love for the distinctive Bristolian sound that inspired Ulver to transcend black metal in the late fin de millennium. Instead, Hostile gets in to gear on the excellent ‘Proper Use of Myself’, which thrives on a superb squelch bass pattern and mashes up Depeche Mode and Faith No More with the type of gravel-throated vocals synonymous with the grunge scene of the early 1990s. It’s no exaggeration to say the first half of this record just gets better with each song. ‘Horizon Ignited’ could be from Greg Puciato’s solo album from last year if not for the Tool middle-eight and decision to put the listener through a two-minute drum ‘n’ bass workout. ‘Stigmatized (Robotripping)’ is what Nine Inch Nail’s disappointing With Teeth record should have sounded like in 2004 if Trent had more inspiration behind his music. The vocals are muscular, the bass grooves sultry, the riff reminiscent of Nirvana’s ‘Milk It’. What a tune!
You’re right to show scepticism towards a band that used to sound like Aphex Twin remixing Emperor with the added intensity of Anaal Nathrakh. It’s true that most songs come in under five minutes and stick to recognisable rock structures. A prime example of how this band is now unrecognisable from their original sound is ‘The End of a World’, a magnificent number that brings together Tears for Fears with the supremacy of the alt-metal era of the 1990s. The dreamy jazz chords and saxophone solo give it an introspective finish like staring at the intricate raindrops forming on the windowpane on a late Sunday afternoon.
Perhaps the best description of Hostile is a kind of metallic grunge composed after a session of studying Swiss industrial masters, The Young Gods. ‘Lava Bed Sahara’ and ‘Radiophobia’ incorporate a Layne Staley/Alice in Chains vocal approach while ‘Nearly Incomplete’ sounds like a jungle remix of Faith No More’s ‘Caffeine’ right down to the main riff. At fourteen tracks and over an hour in length, it would test your endurance if not for the grade-A quality of the arrangements.
‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ bubbles along on a post-metal mood and mixes Portishead and Apollyon Sun into a lunge of distorted drum snares and dissonant keyboard swells. You get the impression they could have turned this into a double album, such is the ease with which they showcase their talents. Only on ‘Harsh and Educational’ and ‘Solve Et Coagula’ do we get something approaching the vibe of a bonus track, yet these are still decent affairs despite their obvious debt to Nine Inch Nails.
It’s hard to imagine that Aborym were once a transgressive extreme metal act. On Hostile they care nothing for their legacy and look only to the future in the confidence their song-writing skills can carry them forward. The truth is, they pull it off. This is a remarkable album with a bewildering array of influences and a coherent vision to match. Maybe this might regenerate the hype that once surrounded them.
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Record Label: Dead Seed Productions
Standout tracks: Proper Use of Myself, End of a World, Lava Bed Sahara
Suggested Further Listening: The Young Gods – TV Sky (1992), Greg Puciato – Child Soldier: Creator of God (2020), Ulver – Themes from William Blake’s The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1998)