Aborted - Retrogore - (8.5/10)
Published on April 23, 2016
No School Like
The Old School1
In case you couldn’t tell from its title, Retrogore—the ninth full-length offering from Belgium’s premier extreme metal exports, Aborted—is a decidedly old-school death metal album. Yet it is also one brimming with vitality that isn’t ashamed to take appropriate advantage of newer trends and techniques.
Aborted: keeping a head of the competition!
(Be sure check out our post on H.P. Lovecraft in metal while you’re here)
Aborted have always been one of those “you get what you see” sort of bands—having churned out a relatively, steady catalogue of uncompromising, grind-tinged, gore-centric death metal for the better part of two decades now—and, at this point, the sonic pummeling contained within Retrogore really shouldn’t come as any surprise. I might be alone in wishing the band had pushed the somewhat-experimental leanings of 2008’s Strychnine.213 a little harder and for a little longer, but there’s no denying that since striking back with Global Flatline (and the Coronary Reconstruction EP (2010) before that), Aborted have delivered an run of releases (albums and EPs) that have displayed a qualitative consistency alongside a thorough capacity and understanding of their craft, rarely found within the extreme metal realm—outside of, say, Cannibal Corpse.
On its surface, Retrogore is simply another outstanding, old-school death metal album to add to that string of releases. Everything you’ve ever loved about any other Aborted release—punishing riffs; pulverizing drumming; overblown-to-the-point-of-bordering-on-psychotic lyrics punctuated by tasteful horror-movie samples—is delivered on Retrogore in spades. There isn’t really anything “new” to be found on Retrogore, and nor should you expect there to be anything. However, while Retrogore might not constitute a “progression” for the Belgian bludgeons, it certainly represents a refinement—perhaps even a perfection—of their tried and true formula.
Every member of Aborted, for every second of Retrogore, is simply firing on all cylinders. Sven de Caluwé’s vocals and Ken Bedene’s drumming have never sounded more ferocious, and even JB van der Wal’s bass finds a prominent and effecting plae in Retrogore’s mix. However, it’s the coordinated riffing and duelling leads of longtime contributor Mandel bij de Leij and newcomer Ian Jekelis (ex-Abigail Williams1 / ex-Abysmal Dawn) who are undeniably the MVPs of the record, and who are primarily responsible for breathing such compulsive vitality into the album’s essentially classic sound. The leads on Retrogore are technically impressive as always, but also handled with a degree of tasteful finesse not often found among death metal’s more overbearing outfits.
A moment must also be taken to marvel at the guest appearance of Cattle Decapitation vocalist Travis Ryan on “Divine Impediment.” Ryan’s prowess as a vocalist as seen him become almost unparalleled on the death metal circuit and his tone and style have become so recognizable and distinct that his appearance instantly elevates its already ample surroundings and drags the rest of the band along with him—no small feat in the admittedly-monotone realm of extreme metal vocalists, especially seeing as latter spots from the vocalists from Revocation, Origin and Benighted all more or less blend in entirely with their surroundings.
However, to put Retrogore down as simply being “business as usual”—albeit to a slightly higher standard—would be to do it a severe injustice. Aborted’s sound might not be developing by leaps an bounds on Retrogore but there is enough of a splattering of newer elements in there to help keep things fresh. “Termination Redux”—the record’s masterful centerpiece—begins with the kind of ominous, drawn out stomp you’d expect from Gojira. Retrogore is also a “groovier” record than Aborted have come up in the past. The band haven’t toned down their assault by any means, nor have they given way to the groove-centric death n’ roll Chris Barnes has spent the last couple of decades perfecting, yet there’s a decent amount of cuggery and even a couple of bass drops to be found throughout the record, particularly in the latter half.
Aborted have certainly come a long way from their Carcass-worshiping days of yore—having established themselves as one of the most renowned and reliable death metal acts in the game. It could be argued that to continually put out the same kind of album, but with enough fresh ideas and passion of delivery to keep things interesting is a greater achievement than pulling in previously unrelated outside ideas or jackknifing in a whole new direction—as many more “progressive” acts tend to do. If that’s the case then Aborted are one of the most valuable acts in extreme metal today, and Retrogore is nothing short of triumphant.
1 I know, I used the same tag in the Artillery review recently, but come on…
2 Bedene is also ex-Abigail Williams, and he and Jekelis previously collaborated on that band’s outstanding 2010 release, In The Absence Of Light.