The current Relapse roster is a patchwork of extreme music styles and subgenre miscegenation. It’s been a long time since the label has signed a trad death-metal band, and considering its early-’90s run of classic releases by Deceased, Suffocation, Incantation and other stateside death-metal acts, it says a lot that the Relapse A&R department threw up horns of approval to Abysmal Dawn, one of Los Angeles’s more accomplished brutality-peddlers.
On its second album (and Relapse debut), Programmed to Consume, Abysmal Dawn blasts through well-trod territory with enough swing and tech smarts to outpace the legions of bands that worship the same influences. “Grotesque Modern Art” and “Cease to Comprehend” marry the regal demi-melodies of Suffocation with a sense of groove typical of Vader. Other tracks rely on shifting streams of tremolo picking or blackened thrash; Mayhem-style arpeggios and vocal rasps drape album standout “The Descent” in black-metal shrouds. Programmed to Consume may not innovate, but its death-metal potpourri adheres to no single template, either.
Abysmal Dawn’s always-melodic guitar solos are definite bonuses, as is the refreshingly human sound of Terry Barejas’s drums. Most of all, the band prizes songcraft over brutality and empty technique, which is a pretty rare trait in modern death metal. It means that Programmed to Consume leaves bite marks the first time ’round and holds tight on subsequent listens.