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Album Review: ABSTRACTER Cinereous Incarnate

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Oakland's Abstracter has evolved and changed quite a bit since their formation in 2010. Originally formed as a noise duo, the band slowly grew into a blackened doom project with a full band. While each release has seen shakeups in the band's personnel, the core duo of Mattia Alagna and Robin Kahn remains its cornerstone. Over the last eight years, Alagna and Kahn's vision turned Abstracter into a wildly enthralling entity. This was certainly the case on 2015's Wound Empire. This is even more true for their newest release, Cinereous Incarnate.

There are numerous reasons to why Abstracter's third full-length recording is their best yet. To start, the lineup for this record is perhaps its most diversely talented collection—no offense to prior members. The original duo now finds themselves joined by former Dahkma drummer, Adam Gambel, and Alagna's Atrament bandmate, bassist James Meyer. Gambel's background in grind and powerviolence allows Abstracter the opportunity to incorporate quicker drum rhythms and blast beats. Meyer boosts the low-end with his expertise in black metal and crust.

In addition to this new personnel, the band also brought in some friends. Kevin Gan Yuen of experimental noise/metal entity, Sutekh Hexen, and Kush Arora of the dark industrial act, Only Now joined for the new album. Though Alagna and Kahn began as a noise duo themselves, the inclusion of these two minds really push the electronic aspects of Abstracter's music to another level.

All of this accumulates into riveting compositions, especially songs like "Ashen Reign" and "Wings of Annihilation." Now, Abstracter's long-form tracks are considerably denser and packed with nuance. On Wound Empire, particular songs focused a lot on central riffs or building an atmosphere. Instead, if you pull the lens back on Cinereous Incarnate, there is much more to put in focus as songs develop.

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Take, for example, "Ashen Reign." Harsh noise coupled with a lurching pace consume much of the song's early moments. There's almost a static cling to the instrumentation because of the electronics. As the track unfolds, Gambel's drum patterns take hold; they evolve from simple kick/crash combos to blast and d-beat rhythms. A lot of this sustains through the other longer compositions as well. The darker overtones and often mid-paced rhythms channel a lot of Triptykon and Indian.

The shorter, instrumental tracks highlight the electronics pedigree behind Cinereous Incarnate. Gan Yuen's expertise in noise and dark ambiance is almost second to none. The collaboration between him and Abstracter's core make these songs terse moments of introspection rather than filler material—a pitfall that often occurs with some bands who tackle long album lengths. These ambient offerings also flow seamlessly into the album's brightest moments: again, "Ashen Reign" and "Devouring Night."

Hopefully, Abstracter's current iteration manages to stay intact for the foreseeable future. This is a band fully coming into its own and realizing its potential. An album like Cinereous Incarnate undoubtedly qualifies as an opus for the quartet. It shows personal growth, a diversification in their source material, and a willingness to experiment and branch out. This showcase consequently results in one of the more riveting albums of 2018 and dark horse pick for a number of year-end lists.

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Score: 9/10

Buy Cinereous Incarnate from Sentient Ruin Laboratories, Vendetta Records, Tartarus Records, Daymare Recordings, and I, Voidhanger Records now.

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