Considering the over-saturation of the Melodic Death Metal subgenre, and the creative stagnation that naturally follows, it comes as no surprise that many (including myself) have become increasingly jaded and frustrated by this particular style. Sure, every now and then a BE’LAKOR or INSOMNIUM will come out of the woodwork but the style has become, by and large, a creative dead-end bogged down by formulaic repetition and lack of imagination. This issue also plagues the seemingly never-ending Retro-Thrash movement, but I digress...
Anyhoo, Italian act LAHMIA have been receiving some positive acclaim over the past few years, with their 2008 EP “Forget Every Sunrise” praised for its marriage of modern DARK TRANQUILITY-ish Melo-Death and Goth sensibilities. I’ve been trying in vain to get a hold of said release, so when their debut full-length popped up in our promo pool I jumped at the opportunity to see what all the fuss was about. Well, considering their rather straightforward take on the style, I had a curiously good time with “Into The Abyss”. I’m quite picky when it comes to this style, so I generally favour innovation over execution in this context, but in the face of these stellar songs I’ve decided to put my own prejudices and preconceptions on the backburner. For now, at least.
I didn't really come across any wholesale DARK TRANQUILITY plagiarism on here, as the band’s aggressive and somewhat melancholy sound has more in common with very early AMON AMARTH, SACRILEGE and A CANOROUS QUINTET. There are some underlying keyboard and electronic embellishments here and there but they are utilized differently than those on your average DT album. “Into The Abyss” is extremely consistent on a track-by-track basis, with the plodding “grinding Dreams” being the only misstep. As mentioned earlier, the majority of the songs on here have a strong sense of melancholy and sombreness hanging over them, and these moments easily represent the band at their most convincing. Numbers like the title track and “My Crown” are great examples of this aesthetic, with the former incorporating some tasteful blackened vocals into the mix while the latter is a slower beast altogether with a frosty vibe that brings to mind DISSECTION to some degree. There are moments of levity of course – see “Silent Through The Screaming Crowd” with its uplifting yet epic melodies, while something like “Strength From My Wounds” is straight-ahead aggression all the way through.
It would be a stretch to proclaim this album a modern-day classic of the subgenre, and the band’s dearth of truly fresh ideas might cost them in the long run, but when judged by its own merits this is a strong album. Well-played, well-produced, and a fair bit more atmospheric than the run-of-the-mill Melo-Death album, “Into The Abyss” is well worth seeking out.
(Online June 10, 2012)