Steffen Kummerer fronts two successful and respected German extreme metal bands. Both Obscura and Thulcandra were started in the early 2000s. Obscura plays progressive/technical death metal while Thulcandra’s approach is more in the black/death metal vein. Obscura released their latest album A Valediction in 2021, and now Thulcandra emerges with their fifth album Hail the Abyss.
Kummerer is the lone remaining original member of Thulcandra, and their newest member is bassist Carsten Schorn (Nailed To Obscurity), who joined the band in 2021, replacing the late Chris Kratzer. 2021’s A Dying Wish was dedicated to Kratzer. Hail the Abyss is the third Thulcandra album for drummer Erebor (ex-Secrets of the Moon) and the second for guitarist M. Delastik (The Soulscape Project).
The album gets off to an intense start with “In the Eye of Heaven,” with the extremity dialing back to a more moderate groove partway through before ramping up again and then mellowing out at the end. Those dynamics are heard throughout the album, and makes for a more more varied listening experience than the typical bludgeoning death metal release.
“All Night” is a brief acoustic interlude that’s actually pretty catchy, but also provides a brief moment of beauty before the brutality resumes with “Velvet Damnation.” It showcases Erebor’s drumming, as he shifts from blastbeats to a more traditional style with some clever fills. The track’s melodic inclinations are contrasted by Kummerer’s biting harsh vocals.
“On the Wings of Cosmic Fire” starts with some of the record’s biggest grooves before the black metal elements bubble to the forefront along with fierce vocals from Kummerer. Those grooves return toward the end. Acoustic guitar continues for the intro of “Acheronian Cult” before it turns into a rousing death metal song.
“Blood of Slaves” is one of Hail the Abyss’ strongest songs. It starts as a regal black metal song, then eases back a death metal groove with catchy melodic guitar riffs. There are shifts back and forth from extremity to melody, with near chaos settling back into groove and then another acoustic ending.
That leads to another brief acoustic instrumental before the epic, eight minute closer with the apt title “The Final Closure.” Continuing the acoustic guitar from the preceding instrumental, it slowly builds, adding electric guitar and building anticipation until the rhythm section kicks in about 90 seconds in. It has the same twists and turns as the rest of the album, with perhaps even more melodic parts. It’s an effective way to wrap up the album.
The album’s production is excellent, and it’s no surprise the mix sounds good because it was done by legendary producer Dan Swano (Opeth, Katatonia), who showcases both the band’s brutal side and their melodic side. Hail the Abyss doesn’t break a lot of fresh ground, but the execution of their blackened death metal in both songwriting and musicianship is razor sharp.