Album Review: Outre-Tombe – Abysse Mortifère

Album Review: Outre-Tombe – Abysse Mortifère
Reviewed by Sam Jones

I was very interested when I heard Outre-Tombe would be releasing their third full length record towards the end of this year. I personally found their previous album to be decent enough, but ultimately a letdown thanks to a subpar production but that’s just my two cents on it. The band hail from that curious French-Canadian region of North America named Quebec that has given us one or two really premiere extreme metal bands over the last decade. Outre-Tombe could therefore be seen as a flagwaver for this part of the world having formed back in 2010 and being amongst one of the first modern Quebec death metal acts I had discovered in recent years. The band’s first Demo came out in 2012 but it wouldn’t be until 2015 where we would finally be blessed with their debut full length, a fantastic record titled Repugation and one I still consider to be one of the most underrated death metal records of the last few years. 2018 then gave us Necrovortex however this is the album whose production, I felt, wasn’t up to standard with the band’s otherwise sublime songwriting and ability to perform. As a result when I saw this album announced, I made the decision to check it out. Has Outre-Tombe crafted a greater sounding album than their previous efforts? There was only one way to find out.

Outre-Tombe use an opening to their album that is actually quite striking. This isn’t just some orchestral or ambient piece for once, instead the band give us a pretty jarring and dissonant segment that really draws you in to the album that is to come. With the implementation of metallic shrieks and a sonorous, elongated cry from a man as if falling in descent the record does a fantastic job at not merely settling you in to their soundscape, but at immediately grabbing your attention. This piece is soon followed by the band’s general performance and I must say the production is vastly improved over what their last album gave us if you ask me. I personally felt their last album sounded very tinny and hollowed out, as if there were vistas of sonic horizon that weren’t being met by the band’s performance at that time. However the record we have on our hands here is much fuller with power and definitely comes across as having ingested a bolder and more punching album tone.

Speaking of which, the guitar work also contributes to this heightened idea of a thicker album sound as well. When you’re listening to the riffs you can’t escape the overall punishment the band are willing to put you through, the record hasn’t been juiced up and amplified to the point where the guitar work and production comes off as super crushing or suffocating to that extent however it’s evident from the riffs that the band may have wanted to correct their album’s tone from their last full length release. Listening to the riffs at speed creates this near-Swedish death metal ambiance where it’s not specifically the riffs you’re engaged with, but rather its the tearing and racing, thundering pace the riffs create that draw in and keep hold of you. In addition, I liked how the band managed to give their riffs and solos a keenly old school sound without it feeling like they’re just trying to emulate a retro sound or appeal to older audiences.

Album Review: Outre-Tombe – Abysse Mortifère

In regards to the production, you can also hear how it’s impacted on the drumming too. It demonstrates a measure of control that the band have kept their drums somewhat to the back of the album’s mix. The standard Tom-Tom drums of the kit hit with finesse but retain a fairly unrefined strike, it’s quite clear the band didn’t want anything overly special occurring with the instrumentation that would deride themselves of anything other than a sound that is real and genuine; Outre-Tombe possess an honest death metal sound that doesn’t feel amplified by anything outside of their own individual ability. With this said though, as the band play at more ferocious speeds and the intensity rises the bass drums assume a stronger, rumbling sound whereby it’s not the immediate strike the bass drum dishes out that’s key to their performance. Instead it’s the gradual and collective atmosphere the bass drums manage to exert, practically tucked in beneath the main riffs, that enables them to possess the strength they have without them being thrown down your ears. In many ways the bass drums take on an additional responsibility with the primary bass guitar, layering the underside of the record with a kind of membrane which the rest of the band can continuously use and bounce off from.

The track lengths work pretty well to the band’s advantage here. The band have never been one to try anything overtly long as each of their previous releases have all been below the 40 minute mark. Abysse Mortifére continues that train of thought however it’s within this record that I feel like the band demonstrate just why they keep things concise and to the point. Since most tracks, aside from the album closer, are all 3/4 minutes long it means the band don’t have to waste time at subjecting us to anything strenuously atmospheric or ambient. When the band do give us something with a great deal more power and destruction behind it, what little remaining time there is to a respective track doesn’t diminish the quality you’ve been treated to and as a result you’re more inclined not only to remember it more vividly, but with the greater chances of a repeat listen. What other bands may do with 7/8 minutes, Outre-Tombe condense it into half that time and it shows.

In conclusion, I came away from this record with far more positive feelings than I had done with their last record. I think the reason for this does ultimately lie in how the band have composited their production here as well as the mixing. The songwriting of Outre-Tombe has never been in doubt as far as I’m concerned, however it’s reassuring to hear how the band have really bounced back sonically speaking with a record that not only sounds bold but feels like it’s got a more pronounced presence if you will. The album doesn’t try to shove its power down your throat and it benefits all the more because of it; the record takes on this avalanching, rolling aesthetic to its performance whereby the strength of the band’s performance isn’t based on how hard their riffs and songwriting may hit you but how it may all merge together to create the sensation of a slowly gathering, but imminent, impact. Outre-Tombe have really bounced back and once more, as I was a time ago, I’m very excited to hear what else the band shall give us in the future.

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