Abysmal Dawn – Nightmare Frontier (Album Review)

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Terror from beyond the final frontier.

With nearly two decades of skull-crushing brutality at their backs, Los Angeles-born trustees of old school brutality Abysmal Dawn have made their mark on the scene with an eye to consistency. Drawing inspiration from the darkest corners of the old New York and Florida scenes with the likes of Morbid Angel, Suffocation and Hate Eternal being the most ready points of comparison, theirs’ is a sound that is both familiar yet also not beyond the occasional surprise. Combined with a vivid lyrical approach drawing from occult, Sci-Fi and real world influences, they bring something that is distinctive, but also highly accessible for any death metal enthusiast who prefers their vintage just a tad older than the variety put forth by contemporary brutal and technical acts such as Devourment and Necrophagist. That being considered, their latest studio venture dubbed “Nightmare Frontier,” a de facto single turned EP release coming just on the heels of their 2020 smash LP via Season Of Mist records “Phylogenesis,” brings something more atypical to the table.

As with most surprise offerings, things commence on a more expected note, though by no means is it a boring one. The leadoff anthem and lone original studio song “A Nightmare Slain” hits the tracks like a blast-happy freight train, chock full of wild riff work, rapid fire drumming and topped off with a technically charged guitar solo that lays on the Suffocation influences like their going out of style. Yet at the same time, there are occasional hints of a more consonant, almost metalcore-like flavor to things, particularly during the latter half of the song when the second lead guitar break enters, which in turn gives way to a chilling synthesizer and shrieking guitar outro that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Following suit, this L.A. quartet reaches back into the early days of their career and dusts off an early classic in “Blacken The Sky”, which has a bit more of a Deicide flavor to it and sees vocalist Charles Elliott stealing most of the show with a brilliant low-tone growl that listens like a doubly ferocious rendition of Glen Benton, though the idiomatic and occasionally singing guitar display of Vito Petroni runs a close second in the attention-grabbing department.

“Nightmare Frontier” Album Artwork

Though this is a band that has hung their proverbial hats on the idea of emulating the classic American death metal sound with some brutal and technical flourishes, they’ve also recently taken to appropriating some less typical stylistic fair wherein their cover material is concerned. True to their first excursion into similarly melodic territory back on 2014’s “Obsolescence” with a brilliant reinterpretation of Dissection’s “Night’s Blood”, Abysmal Dawn hits auditory pay dirt with a danker and uglier rendition of early In Flames cruiser “Behind Space” off the “Lunar Strain” debut, bringing a mid-90s American death metal twist to a pioneering Gothenburg anthem. Yet the closing chapter to this sonic novella, namely the mostly faithfully reproduced and slightly augmented cover of Candlemass classic “Bewitched” proves the most surprising, with a near perfect imitator of Messiah Marcolin’s menacing dramatic tenor bellow accompanying a death/doom-like musical accompaniment and the occasional guttural groans out of Elliott. To call this out of left field would be an understatement, as even the lead guitar work perfectly emulates that old school heavy metal vibe that gave the original its distinctive sound and drummer James Coppolino tones down his frenetic beats to a grave-like crawl.

It’s a foregone conclusion that this EP will play extremely well to the base of devoted death metal fanatics that this band has been building since the mid-2000s, but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to see those who normally aren’t inclined towards the dissonant, old school sound to be taken in by some of what is going on here. Even when considering the first two songs from this band’s own creative reservoir, there is a certain melodic underpinning to how the riffs develop and also a versatile range of expressions that the vocals cycle through that makes things reasonably compatible with newer melodeath and modern death metal acts. It stands as a reminder that both at present and in the early days of death metal that things didn’t always have to be about graphic violence and that more abstract modes of horror could be just as brutal as vivid imagery of gore. Abysmal Dawn may not be reinventing the wheel, but they’ve definitely put enough of their own ideas into the concept so as not to be mistaken for the vast number of similar circular driving implements out there in both the American and European death metal scenes.

Released By: Season of Mist
Release Date: February 4th, 2022
Genre: Death Metal


  • Charles Elliott / Vocals, Guitars
  • Eliseo Garcia / Bass
  • James Coppolino / Drums
  • Vito Petroni / Guitars

“Nightmare Frontier” Track listing:

  1. A Nightmare Slain
  2. Blacken the Sky
  3. Behind Space (In Flames cover)
  4. Bewitched (Candlemass cover)
8.4 Great

Among one of the most dependable and consistent players in the post-1990s American death metal scene, California-based purveyors of old school brutality Abysmal Dawn shake the pillars of the cosmos with a compact collection of original crushers and reinterpretations of olden classics.

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8
  • Production 8.5

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