For fans of modern metal and its many sub-genres such as death metal, black metal, thrash metal and hardcore, the skill and talent of each member of a metal band is well-known. In popular music, however, it may be difficult to imagine the levels of musicianship, the hours of practice and the understanding of music theory that is required to create a sound which, to the untrained ear, seems anarchic and unhinged. No matter what level of dedication to the genre the listener may have, however, both die-hard metal fans and the uninitiated will no doubt be impressed by Unfathomed of Abyss, a black metal project put together not by five or six band members, but by one Texas artist.
It should be said that Kevin Price as Unfathomed of Abyss took 13 years to complete his debut album, Arisen Upon Oblivion, and it is clear that a great amount of work went into the final product. This is also not black metal in the classic sense, and regular listeners to the sub-genre will notice some differences. Price calls Unfathomed of Abyss “avant-garde black metal,” and the opening track to Arisen Upon Oblivion gives listeners an insight into what he means by that.
To Unequal the Balance of the Cosmos is a largely instrumental track which contains elements of classic black and death metal such as blast beats in the drums. The vocals, such as they are, are very much in line with the higher-pitched screeching vocals which characterize black metal, rather than the “cookie monster growl” of death metal. There are also elements of goth metal in the piano interludes, violins and overlapping guitars. The track is fast and builds to many crescendos, but Price’s guitar work is where the avant-garde comes in, as much of his halting and discordant playing sounds like it would be more at home in a Frank Zappa song than on a metal album. He does play some more traditional running scales, however, so although To Unequal the Balance of the Cosmos has some unconventional elements, it lays out the path for what is cohesively and decidedly a black metal album.
Most of the tracks on Arisen Upon Oblivion are long, giving Price the ability to experiment with his sound as well as establish a storyline to the album. Some songs, such as second track The Figment Unadulated, are very typical of black metal, where others, such as Within the Glory of Other Lights have some elements of black metal like the screaming vocals but not others, as this particular track veers in a more industrial direction with its drums. For the purposes of the album, Unfathomed of Abyss’ drums were recorded by Kevin Talley, a well-known death metal drummer who has been in a number of U.S. bands. Talley is listed among Metal Sucks Magazine’s “Top 25 Metal Drummers,” so Price clearly made a good choice in bringing this legendary drummer to record his arrangements.
As the album moves on to tracks like To Nothing and the concluding track, The Malevolence of Existence’s Continuation, metal fans may draw some parallels with another solo project, Norway’s Burzum, begun by Varg Vikernes, the infamous former bassist of the definitive black metal band, Mayhem. Though Burzum, through Vikernes’ own description, is classed as dark ambient rather than metal, some of the avant-garde and ambient interlude choices Kevin Price makes on the debut Unfathomed of Abyss album may reflect Vikernes’ style. This is not surprising, as Mayhem is known as one of Norway’s pioneering black metal bands, and if Price leans toward the unconventional in metal, Vikernes as Burzum is certainly a powerful mentor.
Arisen Upon Oblivion by Unfathomed of Abyss represents 13 years of work and three hours of material which Price then had to pare down and consolidate into what he considers is his unconventional yet highly effective take on black metal. The album was released about two months ago, and as his fansbase, both metal and other, begins to grow, they will most likely be clamoring for the other two hours’ worth of material to be released. In the meantime, Arisen Upon Oblivion can be purchased as individual tracks or in its entirety on Unfathomed of Abyss’ Bandcamp page, listed in “Sources” below.
Review by Layla Klamt