Abysmal Dawn is one of those bands I just love. It's the melody, the meaningful lyrics, and their ability to work in really juicy hook after hook after hook. Abysmal Dawn continues to impress, and their phenomenal record released a couple years ago, Phylogenesis, left us wanting so much more (in a good way). While we're not getting a new full-length, we do get the blistering four-track EP Nightmare Frontier to hold us over until the LA quartet gets back in the studio to knock out another one.
Inspired by the Lovecraftian video game Bloodborne, the band presents us with the opener "A Nightmare Slain," which is unmistakably Abysmal Dawn from start to finish. I know nothing about Bloodborne because my video game knowledge stops at Mike Tyson's Punchout and NHL 94, but this video certainly has my piqued my interest. Conversely, I'm gathering the Bloodborne fans are going to get their first exposure to the band from the themed video. It's a win-win and I expect a lot of folks are going to enter the Abysmal Dawn fanbase because of it.
"Blacken the Sky" is the second original track off Nightmare Frontier and it also just plain rips. There are some great time changes, intense riffing, and these little nuanced sounds that show just how much attention to detail these guys put into their craft. I particularly love how they layered the lead guitars over the rhythm guitars in a manner that makes both vividly audible. The musicianship here is just stellar.
The two covers are both interesting selections and indicate some wild diversity. "Behind Space" was originally composed by In Flames and features Abysmal Dawn's more modern take on some of the preeminent Gothenburg melodic death metal from decades ago. It's one of my favorite songs from the Swedish pioneers, and it's not surprising Abysmal Dawn would want to pay homage to it. It's just great they do it so well.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Candlemass classic "Bewitched" off the universally acclaimed Nightfall album. Abysmal Dawn actually stays pretty close to the original, which actually took me by surprise because… clean vocals? What?! I actually had to confirm that there wasn't a guest vocalist on this track when I got the promo because I've never heard Charles Elliot sing like this before. I also love how Elliot and company use this cover as a contrast to the rest of the EP. It's completely unexpected and really hits you by surprise in a good way.
Nightmare Frontier might only be four songs, but let me assure you, you'll be playing these four songs over and over again.