End of Days – A Review of Abstracter’s ‘Cinereous Incarnate’

Definition of CINEREOUS;

1 : gray tinged with black. 2 : resembling or consisting of ashes. (Merriam-Webster)


<< Cracks. Blurry cracks. A network like a crazed city map, fading in and out. You blink again to clear some of the fog and see peeling, stained paint. A ceiling. You’re staring at a ceiling. Turning your head ever so slightly, an explosion of pain rockets through your skull. How long have you been out? Days? Weeks? Lay still until the pain subsides. Try again. Success. You push yourself up to a sitting position. >>

US black doom sludge artists ABSTRACTER want to annihilate you. Not just your body, but your mind. Complete and total erasure from existence. Previous albums ‘Wound Empire‘ and ‘Tomb of Feathers‘ have both been top notch studies in the art of destruction and misery, but on upcoming third offering ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ the four-piece paint with an almost unbelievable new palette of utter bleakness.

<< You rub your temples. Eyes open, looking around the room. You’re in the bunker. Shit, what happened? Your mouth is fucking dry. Swallowing is like sandpaper. Water. Must get water. You stand up, legs buckling under you. The lights are dim, but you can see the remnants of supplies all around you. Empty bottles. No water. Gotta make it to the door then. Lurching steps, to the door panel, fingers input the code without thinking. Muscle memory taking over. The door begins to raise… But no light shines into the room. >>

How have they stepped it up? Well, amongst other delights we’ll cover shortly the doomsayers of Kahn, Alagna, Meyer and Gambel have added two more assistants in painting this hellish portrait to their ranks: this release sees further shades of misery contributed by none other than black noise maestro Kevin Gan Yuen of Sutekh Hexen and dark industrialist Kush Arora, aka Only Now.

<< You stand frozen, looking out. What the fuck happened? There is no sky. There are no buildings, only shattered husks. Burnt and twisted frames reaching up like gnarled fingers through the haze. The air… Ash. The air is ash. >>

Their contributions to the already abysmal soundscape offered on previous releases push everything to darker places than ever before. Whereas on past releases squalls of feedback would be used to achieve the haunting ambience (and still are, to greater effect than ever); now miasmic swathes of black noise either blend with Kahn’s soul-tearing riffs and Alagna’s beast-mode vocals (there are times when his vocals literally sound like they’re disintegrating into the black noise, the sound waves somehow deconstructing at an atomic level) or act as almost negative spaces between them, creating vortices that suck all remaining vestiges of life from the world created by the abrasive, harrowing maelstrom.

<< Picking through the rubble, you make your way through the remains of what you once knew. Breathing tastes acrid, the air sulfuric. Your mind races, a jumble, confusion. >>

And create another world they do. That annoying little flow of italic subtext running through this piece is a short story I wrote inspired by ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ while I was listening through it the first couple of times; this is what the album made me feel. Complete submersion into a post-apocalyptic landscape. A world destroyed. This isn’t done one-dimensionally or for mere ‘fantasy entertainment value’, either; it feels deeper and based in reality, like a point is being made and as all good art is apt to inspire in the one experiencing it, you may find yourself asking questions.

<< A sudden sound, up ahead to the left. A slow, faint scraping noise. Through the grey and shadow you can just make out a shape. Closer. It doesn’t know you are there. >>

Questions such as: What caused this? Was it man’s arrogance? Is this our certain future, an environmental doom, unavoidable as we continue along our current trajectory? Or is this the aftermath, once some fat fingers and fatter fucking egos have hit the nuke buttons and doomed us all to shit?

<< You can see it now. A wretched, soot-covered figure that may have once been a woman, hunched and gnawing on the skull of what appears to be a child. You turn and run. >>

Immersed in the inherent agony and horror of both the sonic assault and the harrowing images it conjures, you’re then forced to wonder… Can anything even be done to prevent it?

<< You run endlessly, through wreck and ruin. Thoughts tumble, panicked, a horror kaleidoscope. Lungs burn. Grey haze. Run. Never ending ruin. RUN. >>

Such a contemplative state is a testament to how good this record really is. It’s powerful stuff and we haven’t even touched on the artwork, where Kevin Gan Yuen’s skilled hands once again come into play. I’ve seldom seen cover art that’s a more accurate visual manifestation of the music within and I definitely can’t think of one that would come close to it so far this year. It’s an ultimate combination, I can only imagine what the lyrics are like but I’ll go ahead and assume they complete the picture flawlessly (I’ll find out for sure once my physical copy arrives: lyrics are printed in the booklet).

<< You eventually collapse, heaving, coughing black flecks of blood and ash. inside a hollowed shell. Manic, what the fuck is this? Is this life now? Is this all there is? >>

Admittedly the production is slightly less oppressive than 2016s great split with Dark Circles, but that’s like saying you only hung choking for a minute and a half this time before the beam broke, and really only serves to offer an even clearer view of the devastation. It’s a very different beast than the sludgy ‘Wound Empire’ too; the sludge and crust aspects are still there of course, but whereas that album (and ‘Tomb of Feathers’ before it) flirted with other shades on the colour spectrum and included elements of light and shadow, now everything is far more doomy, black and desolate. The closest they come to any of that earlier flirtation is on opener ‘Nether’, where for a brief moment the mood is almost reflective… But the intensity soon builds to crushing levels, never to return. You know the Leonard Cohen lyric “there’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in”? No light at all gets into this album. This is the album that makes the cracks in everything else.

<< As you lay crumpled against the wall, you begin to hear it. Far off in the distance, a droning, low hum. But harsher, dissonant. It slowly gets louder. >>

Which isn’t to say it’s monotonous or flat. On the contrary; it’s a perfectly laid out album with fantastic dynamics. The opener is relatively uptempo and almost eases you in; first ambient/noise track ‘Cinereous’ is a superb segue that (unlike many atmospheric interludes) actually furthers the narrative of the album with its counterpart ‘Incarnate’, both of which wonderfully bookend the two oblivion-inducing centrepieces before the closing 9 minutes and 35 seconds of ‘Devouring Night’ is both the final crushing of breath from your body and a merciful bullet in your head as you lay helpless on the ground.

<< The drone is closer. Humming, crushing, a screech like infernal feedback howling within. It’s almost… Comforting. But not in a pleasant way. It’s more… Nothing. >>

And those centrepieces, oooft. ‘Ashen Reign’ and ‘Wings of Annihilation’ are easily my favourite tracks on the record, and that’s saying something. Details like the descending tempo section in ‘Ashen Reign’ knock me six feet under. Everything across the entire package seems perfectly placed for maximum destruction and emotive effect; it’s almost like the whole package has been psychologically designed to infiltrate your mind, implanting images of dystopia and withering despair to inflict the deepest wounds possible.

<< It’s all around you. Enveloping you in sound. You can feel it vibrating every atom of your being. All pervading bleakness. The end of everything. Is this bliss? >>

I love albums like that; you can talk all the musicology and technical ability you want but the best albums are ones you feel. You fucking feel this album. It begins at rock bottom, but only burrows down further from there and by the end is a weight on your soul that you’ll never recover from. To be honest it even shits me off that I’ll probably never get to see these guys live, because standing in a room with this carnage going on would be like experiencing a sinkhole opening up in the room and swallowing everything.

<< You look down at your hands and see they have started to disintegrate. Your skin has become the colour of the air, tiny flecks of you breaking off into the wind as you watch. The sound is infecting you, destroying, becoming one. >>

It should be absolutely zero surprise that there’s so much label backing for this album too (it drops on June 8th through Sentient Ruin Laboratories, Vendetta Records, I, Voidhanger Records, Tartarus Records and Daymare Recordings), it deserves every ounce of it. These gentlemen get better with every release and their evolution from the debut into the wretched black form they now inhabit has been astonishing; in ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ they’ve created a stunning, almost immaculate album that leaves you irrevocably changed after you hear it.

<< Thoughts are fading away. You hold up an arm; it’s mostly gone. It doesn’t even hurt. There is no pain. The sound is all. All is nothing. All is destroyed. Parts of you drop off and are gone before they hit the charred earth. You take one last look at this world, or what remains of it… And feel nothing but emptiness. >>

Well, it did for me anyway. For you? Who knows, give it a try. Expect pain. Expect hopelesness. Expect year-end lists. Abase thyself at the rotten throne of ABSTRACTER.

<< The last specks of you float away. The crushing drone fades, softly into the distance. All is as it once was… Desolation. A grotesque monument to failure and decay. >>

The harbingers of oblivion are here.

<< All is silent.

All is gray. >>


Purchase Abstracter‘s ‘Cinereous Incarnate’ on cassette, vinyl or digitally from Sentient Ruin Laboratories here or Vendetta Records here, on cassette from Tartarus Records here, on mini-gatefold CD from I, Voidhanger Records here, plus most of the above and Japanese CD digipacks with bonus track and OBI strip from their own Bandcamp here.

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