Abiotic – Ikigai
It’s been five years since Abiotic’s last album, and with their new release, “Ikigai” they have decided to write about something other than aliens. At the time of writing this, the lyrics have yet to be made available, but essentially the main story concerns a Samurai warrior. Track by track, this album tells many stories. The cover art shows said Samurai committing seppuku (Japanese ritual suicide), and as he bleeds out, he sees his future lives. These include, in the band’s words: “Life as a trans man/woman facing intolerance, as an addict, as an abused child battling mental health, as an owl, as its home is destroyed by climate change; an infinite number of lives, struggling but persevering in their struggle. Tying it all together, he finds his purpose in that moment of connection before he passes away on that field in 16th century Japan”.
Guitarist John Matos comments on the development of Ikigai: “The title Ikigai translates from Japanese as ‘a reason for being.’ Each song represents a different approach to that concept. We wanted to write something that could be felt and that would be relatable, as we all struggle to find our reason to carry on in these trying times”. Unfortunately, as most of the vocals are guttural and mostly indecipherable, and the fact that we don’t have eyes on the written lyrics, it is difficult right now to match these various tales with their relevant tracks. Perhaps the sleeve notes will throw more light on this puzzling issue.
Abiotic are another band out of the Artisan Era stable, a label from whom we have come to expect nothing but great acts. To the uninitiated, Death Metal bands, whether the “melodic” variation or not, must all sound the same. I find that with time, after a few listens a myriad of subtleties start to emerge.
The opening track ‘Natsukashii’ is the lightest one on the album. Its title means a feeling of nostalgia in Japanese. It is a short instrumental in an Oriental style, effectively setting the scene. The title track ‘Ikigai’ is mostly heavy with sporadic blast-beats and screamed tormented vocals, occasionally dropping into quieter softer bits. ‘Covered the Cold Earth’ has a complex, almost industrial sound with complimentary guitar and piano nuggets weaved into it. ‘Smoldered’ featuring Chaney Crabb (Entheos), is fast and convoluted. Its unrelenting pace eventually gives way to a gentle guitar passage, before building again to its original intensity.
Abiotic – Smoldered (click here if the video does not play)
‘The Wrath’ has a suitable angry sound, even in the quiet bit, ‘If I Do Die’’ is equally as angry but has a couple of satisfying guitar solos to break it up, and features Brandon Ellis (The Black Dahlia Murder). ‘Souvenir of Skin’ features Black Dahlia Murder’s Trevor Strnad (pronounced ‘Stir-nad’ apparently). This is one of the most varied tracks on the album, time changes a plenty, and subtle little embellishments thrown in for good measure from start to finish.
Abiotic – Souvenir of Skin (click here if the video does not play)
‘Her Opus Mangled’ has a different sound and feel. It features Jared Smith (Archspire) and some brilliant bass playing from Killian Duarte, ‘Horadric Cube’ which by all accounts comes from the Diablo game series and can be found in the ‘Halls of the Dead’, features Scott Carstairs of Fallujah on guitar. ‘Grief Eater, Tear Drinker’, featuring Jonathan Carpenter (ex-The Contortionist), has just about everything including some clean singing. It is heavy, melodic and has an excellent accompanying video that captures this particular story perfectly.
Abiotic – Grief eater, Tear Drinker (click here if the video does not play)
Rounding things off is ‘Gyokusai’. Roughly translated this means “Shattered Jewel” or honourable suicide. A short soft piano intro leads to an anguished heavier section followed by multiple moods and time changes. The track and album end with a quiet minute of voices and effects that gradually fade out.
This is another great release from the Artisan Era and well worth the 5 year wait. The band seem to have rediscovered their mojo, so maybe we will see more from them. I, for one, certainly hope so.
- Covered the Cold Earth
- The Wrath
- If I Do Die
- Souvenir of Skin
- Her Opus Mangled
- Horadric Cube
- Grief Eater, Tear Drinker