Review: “Snake Oil” by King Abyss

There can be no hiding from the fact that we use phrases like “highly anticipated” far too often than we probably should and arguably that’s to the detriment of some records with some members of Joe Public simply brushing the phase off as “media hype“. The truth is that when it comes to the debut full length album “Snake Oil” from Aggressive Crossover Thrash quintet King Abyss, there aren’t really any better phrases. Sure, can look in a thesaurus and pull out one or two alternatives but what’s the point? The reasons behind the use of the phrase are simple; a pair of EPs in 2017’s “Reborn” and 2018s “The Destroyer Of Worlds” laid the foundations in the finest possible way and so it has been a five year wait for more. Add to that the fact that album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Myroslav Borys (From Her Ashes, Confessions Of A Traitor, Monasteries) at Jigsaw Audio and the bands reputation for a fierce live show and you have all you need to know.

April 2019 single “Weapons of Mass Delusion” opens the record in style, Dom Bould calling out the liars, deceivers, thieves and the morally corrupt as the World enters dark times on a cut that resonates as much now lyrically as it did then, if not more so. Desperate times call for desperate measures and the fretboard smoking incendiary nature of this Thrash masterclass finds the band in their element, the mix from Borys being nailed perfectly. The riffs continue to fly from Sam Millard and Harry Dale as the album title track hints at influences in the likes of Kreator and perhaps even The Haunted with its vicious intent being at the heavier end of the Thrash genre but not quite reaching Death Metal infused heights. The solos on this one in particular fall into the classic category while the modern, clean and crisp production values elevate this metaphorical punch in the face from being a bloody bare knuckled one to one with the addition of a knuckle duster. The scathing vocals from Bould on “Loathe” reach a new level of intensity with an extra depth of emotional attachment to the lyrics bleeding out into the performance while the extended solo is the absolute definition of the Chef’s kiss. Balance is found with “Disdain” which moves from a thunderstorm into the cold light of day and the aftermath with melancholic melodies and clean vocals that build into a powerful sing-a-long chorus. It is with cuts like this that bands are accused by purists of selling out but here here is nothing of that and the band offer something with crushing grit and integrity, something which you can hear in the the vocal performance. Add to the melting pot a vibrant virtuoso solo to fade and you have nothing short of a masterclass.

The album is split clean in half by a classic acoustic interlude piece that sounds like it is straight out of the “Master Of Puppets” era of Metallica. A haunting palate cleanser it clears the mind of the fear and dread of “Disdain” with a moment of clarity before “Fear the dead” hits like an uppercut from a prize fighter. Whammy bar drop solo moments, searing vocals and a pummelling kit performance from George Heathcote make for a fist pumping anthem with a chant for a title that will go down like a ship in a storm in the Bermuda triangle when its performed live. A downtempo Death Metal breakdown finale is sheer class and allows for the lightening in a bottle energy of “A Short Drop And a Sudden Stop” to hit that much harder as it rampages through the ear drums like a parasite seeking brains to feast upon. We’ve mentioned the quality of the solos on this album a couple of times already but this one also deserves a note of it’s own, especially when it bursts into flames a the end with leads joined at the hip to a larynx threatening vocal passage. There is no soft centre, no diminishing quality or sub-par performance here, the band ensuring that the album is not only worth the wait but worth its weight in gold with “Eyes Always Watching“, a cut that would fit perfectly into the self titled Chimaira record like a glove on the hand of a murderer bringing down the curtain on the vocals. Instrumental finale “Nibiru” borders on the cinematic as a cut that could easily have orchestrations added to it, at times the soundscape for an epic Western as it harks back to the classic instrumentals from Metallica in style. This is an album as addictive as a designer drug, you’ll keep coming back to it time and again [9/10]

Track Listing

1. Weapons of Mass Delusion
2. Snake Oil
3. Loathe
4. Disdain
5. Interlude
6. Fear the dead
7. A Short Drop And a Sudden Stop
8. Eyes Always Watching
9. Nibiru (instrumental)

Snake Oil” by King Abyss is out 24th February 2023 with pre-orders available over at bandcamp.

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