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Abysmal Dawn - "Leveling The Plane of Existence" (CD)

Abysmal Dawn - "Leveling The Plane of Existence" CD cover image

"Leveling The Plane of Existence" track listing:

1. The Age of Ruin (01:40)
2. Pixilated Ignorance (03:50)
3. In Service of Time (04:48)
4. Rapture Renowned (04:26)
5. Our Primitive Nature (00:56)
6. Perpetual Dormancy (04:40)
7. Leveling The Plane of Existence (04:33)
8. Manufactured Humanity (02:57)
9. My Own Savior (04:18)
10. The Sleeper Awakens (06:36)

Reviewed by on April 24, 2011

"On 'Leveling the Plane of Existence,' Los Angeles, California death metal act Abysmal Dawn has announced its presence as a maker of records, and not just a writer of songs."

There are bands that write songs and then there are bands that write albums. The former compile an assemblage of riffs and concepts and put them together piecemeal, calling it complete whenever the requisite number of tracks is finished. The latter, on the other hand, take a holistic approach, tying together every component and theme, and putting together a product that is to be taken in its entirety. On “Leveling the Plane of Existence,” Los Angeles, California death metal act Abysmal Dawn has announced its presence as a maker of records, and not just a writer of songs.

Every track on the album can be heard as part of something larger than itself, from the dissonant piano intro, “The Age of Ruin,” through to “The Sleeper Awakens,” the album's final act. Armageddon and the extinction of humanity are hardly unexplored territories as far as death metal is concerned, but rarely are these subjects explored in such a pronouncedly refined amalgamation of technicality, brutality, and musicianship. The songs are technical, chaotic, and precise, and the the vocals, while brutal, possess clarity and enunciation, with wicked interchange between false vocal chord lows and mid to high range shrieks. Apocalyptic, diving solos with nods to Morbid Angel, along with a pleasing lack of canned production and triggers ensure that this album won't be lumped in with the rest of the ought-years and beyond modern death metal category a decade or more on. It possesses something a bit more timeless than that, while still remaining within the confines of convention, for the most part—Abysmal Dawn just manages to do convention a whole lot better than most of the death metal bands today.

And what of this convention? There is the rapid chug and palm mute, the push and pull between technicality and acute brutality, and the Mikael Akerfeldt vocal approach. Songs such as “In Service of Time” exhibit Abysmal Dawn's thoughtful lyrics that, while repetitious, get the message across and delve deeper than typical blood and gore death metal. There is structure and balance, ripping tone and underlying lead work. There is the alternate picking speed, head banging fury, and old school spirit with modern technicality of “Rapture Renowned,” with harmonized solos relevant to the song structure, and black metal evil creeping through the oily, thick brine. The music captures the atmosphere of of the lyrical message. This is no hodge podge of riffs and disembodied voices. Everything was put together with purpose for power and effect.

Some things about the album's concept are direct to the point of obviousness, like the tribal drum beat interlude, “Our Primitive Nature,” but it only serves to drive home the point further. It is a double bass blast conjuring of visions of the end, as can be heard on the title track, brought about by myopic selfishness, greed, and an overall disposition towards the prospering of the individual over the thriving of the species. The speedy alternate picking on “Manufactured Humanity” is fluid to the point of crystalline, and brings to mind Chuck Schuldiner's tone circa Control Denied. Empowering overtones, with lines such as “God lies in me...I'm my own creator,” come through on “My Own Savior,” with its death walking palm mute stalking the low frets on the fat strings.

“Leveling the Plane of Existence” is a story, the battle hymn of the beast of man, menacing, building, and dramatic. By the time it ends in feedback cacophony falling into oblivion and atonal nothingness, the listener has something complete to contemplate, and a journey that is worth repeating to see what may have been missed the first time down that long path to hell and back.

Highs: "Leveling the Plane of Existence" is a complete package, an album as a pronounced, unequivocal statement.

Lows: The interlude could well have been replaced with another full offering of Abysmal Dawn's brand of brutality.

Bottom line: There is death metal convention to be found on this record, but you'll be hard pressed to find it done any better than this.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)