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Lahmia - "Into The Abyss" (CD)

Lahmia - "Into The Abyss" CD cover image

"Into The Abyss" track listing:

1. Drag Me To Hell
2. Nightfall
3. Silent Through The Screaming Crowd
4. The Tunnel
5. Into The Abyss
6. Glass Eyed Child
7. Grinding Dreams
8. Strength From My Wounds
9. My Crown
10. Ab Aeterno

Reviewed by on May 16, 2012

"Strains that should accompany a desolate scene atop a windswept, isolated mountain peak as one laments the world's imminent destruction by fire and ice."

The members of Italian quartet Lahmia were born in the wrong country and the wrong decade, as the first spin of their debut LP “Into The Abyss” makes screamingly obvious. That might sound like a surly dismissal – Lord knows I’ve taken more than my share of swipes at today’s gaggle of barely-legal poseurs claiming the mantle of “true metal” through blind early ‘80s worship – but in Lahmia’s case, the observation comes with relief. For Mediterranean though they are, these dudes have Sweden in their hearts, the ‘90s in their nimble hands, and pure, unadulterated melodic death metal surging through their veins and seeping into their souls.

Hold on. Right now you’re thinking, “Eurotrash and metalcore douchebags have been ripping off that sound for years! It’s a GENRE. What the hell, man?” True, but nonetheless, the original Gothenburg style is a mighty tough one to repeat. You can blend it with other influences for some added spice, but very few bands have successfully captured and distilled the essence of what made the style so intoxicating in the first place without sounding stale. Lahmia is one of them, and their fountain of inspiration lays squarely between the seminal Dark Tranquillity classics “The Gallery” [1995] and “The Mind’s I” [1997]. It’s as though they each were born with both album covers tattooed on each buttcheek; the influence is that direct. (Coming full circle, the cover art for “Into The Abyss” was masterminded by none other than Dark Tranquillity guitarist Niklas Sundin.) And you know what? It all works!

From stomping opener “Drag Me To Hell” onward, Lahmia delivers an intense, precise balance of nostalgia and modernity that one would be foolish to label a “ripoff.” It’s a worthy homage, a celebration of a revolutionary era in metal that holds up equally well. What earns “Into The Abyss” such a distinction is its embodiment of that movement’s exploratory spirit; back then, genre boundaries had barely begun to form, and few rules existed to restrain the melodeath pioneers from mixing whatever strains they fancied. Likewise, Lahmia freshen up their take with a light dash of thrash (“Nightfall”), a power metal gallop (“The Tunnel”), and a doom detour (“My Crown”). Plus, vocalist Francesco Amerise occasionally diverts from his raspy Mikael Stanne-esque growls (again, the DT influence is THAT direct) to a husky gothic wail in the tradition of Ville Laihiala (Poisonblack, ex-Sentenced) on “Silent Through The Screaming Crowd” and “Glass Eyed Child.” Aside from that jaunt across the Baltic Sea, Lahmia keep it Swedish as usual, even treading heavily on Amon Amarth territory with “Strength From My Wounds,” though guest vocals by Trevor Nadir (Sadist) helpfully tether the band to their native Italy.

As mentioned above, the essence of original Gothenburg melodic death metal is rarely captured, thanks to one factor above all: a frequent lack of melancholy. In handling both rhythm and leads, guitarist Flavio Gianello instinctively grasps the somber, mournful tone that two screaming, harmonizing guitars are capable of producing – strains that should accompany a desolate scene atop a windswept, isolated mountain peak as one laments the world’s imminent destruction by fire and ice. Gianello’s playing bursts with this tragic, cinematic atmosphere and guarantees an immediate second spin of “Into The Abyss.” Further spins might have to wait a while, because too much of a good thing will wear you down like the NYPD after a full week of 9/11 funerals. That and Lahmia’s rather narrow musical focus aside, this is a prime specimen – melodic death metal by and for melodic death metal fans – and for now, that’s all it needs to be.

Highs: Superb guitar work with genuine soul that seamlessly transplants a bygone era into the extreme metal mold of the present.

Lows: Zero originality; the solemn melodeath harmonics are almost too effective and thus sometimes overbearing; unlikely to convert any non-fans of the style.

Bottom line: Looking for an album that faithfully brings '90s Gothenburg melodic death metal screaming into the present? You've found it - and the band isn't even Swedish.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)