ALBUM REVIEW: Abhorrent Expanse – Gateways to Resplendence

The concept Abhorrent Expanse debut release Gateways to Resplendence (Amalgam / Lurker Bias) is indeed a fascinating one. All the tracks have been improvised, and the whole thing was performed as a continuous take. Nothing specific was discussed beforehand except for the pairings of who would play each section and how long they would last, it all being tracked by a stopwatch. The result of such a challenge is interesting if a polarized hit-and-miss affair.

The first thing of note is the low undulating noisescapes of opener ‘Cloak of Ancients’, which works over its 3:30 to build up a low-key hellish atmosphere. The labyrinthine bass notes building up a chilling tension. ‘Annihilation Operators’ starts with a four count on the sticks and then comes in hard with the blast beats. Ethereal blackened shrieks, meet yet more asymmetric basslines snaking their way through the discordance. Laughter and cackling, shrill tremolo picking merge in a textural piece at times more than a little reminiscent of Portal.

There’s a strange section in the middle whereby the sound goes entirely clean, the acoustic sound of electric guitar strings being struck. After that they seem to break into their stride and flow the rhythm section keeping a tight framework for the madness encircling them.

‘Empirical languages’ is a slab of dark discordant jazz noodling, it’s rather cinematic in a way, a slow black and white sixties indie feature soundtrack to a mind unravelling in a black and white movie, their eyes watching the clock ticking away as their descent into madness escalates. Without the accompanying visuals though a sense of full appreciation is lacking.

The discordant chaos continues into ‘Frost suffocation’, with alternating sections of fury juxtaposed with long doomy ambient sections. The blasting is back, the stopwatch dictated sections most notable in the attempt to bring order to chaos.

There’s a real live feel to this, no doubt from its improvisational nature. At times it ventures too far into the chaotic sounds of a band/orchestra just tuning/warming up before a performance, and notably after ‘Frost Suffocation’ it seems to lose its way, whether intentional or not the sense of trying to provide order to chaos just descends into aimless chaos, The attempts at capturing lightening in a bottle moving from hit to miss.

I’m a fan of the weird and wonderful, and musically love to stray off the beaten track, but the later part of this album is a bit too much even by my standards. By the time closing track ‘Arcturian Nano Diamonds form the Tranquil Abyss’ finishes you do feel as though you’ve experienced something unique, but it’s not entirely clear what that was. It feels as though this might have been better as an academic exercise or challenge than as an album.

I suspect the enjoyment was more in the challenge of creation than in the subsequent listening. A soundtrack to a mental breakdown which is missing the visual accompaniment and ultimately in itself breaks down, there’s a certain poetry to that if you think about it, and I suspect to a very niche market this will be something special, the majority however will just be left confused.

Buy the album here:

5 / 10