The dust settles and the smoke clears as you crawl out from underneath the protection of a corroded vehicle. You search the polluted skies for any signs of approaching aircraft. The bombings have become more frequent and the city you once viewed with awe is now crumbled, decrepit and in ruins. As you put on your gas mask to avoid potential poisoning, the air raid sirens begin to signal another impending attack. But emitting from their speakers instead of the traditional siren sound is something more fitting. It is the sound of Abstracter‘s Wound Empire. The Apocalypse, the End of Days, World War III, a global nuclear assault, every potential world-ending scenario could be set to the tune of this Oakland-based quartet’s compositions. Through four lengthy opuses, Wound Empire paints a picture of dystopian life in which all hope is exhausted, and provides the soundtrack for the only instinct the inhabitants would have left; survival.
Signaling the beginning of the end is the 11-minute leviathanic “Lightless”. Reverberating guitar-generated, droning soundscapes slowly fade into the foreground while sparse, primal percussion increases in speed and as a result, increases tension. When the monolithic, blackened, sludge-ridden chords come crashing in head-first, and the torturous vocals spew forth harsh prose, the track becomes a monstrous entity of biblical proportions. The track bleeds perfectly into the haunting, slow-burning intro of “Open Veins”, which propels you into a place of overwhelming despair. Towering, crust-laden guitars are eventually conjured up to turn metropolises into rubble, while a saddened, bleak and melodious bridge absorbs the hope from those unlucky enough to survive. Sparse, doomed chords echo throughout a hollow background during the first two minutes of “Cruciform” before Abstracter lay waste to everything with their blackened brand of post-metal for the remainder of the track, making “Cruciform” the most oppressively heavy of all the album’s movements. Finally Wound Empire is brought to a close with “Glowing Wounds”. Slow but steady, melancholic riffs repeat hypnotically during the track’s first five minutes as multi-layered, ethereal vocals and ambiance hover above them. The earth-shaking instrumentation is shrouded in a veil of ghostly ambiance and melody as it further progresses into a final onslaught of cataclysmic doom and gloom. Wound Empire ends abruptly among a wall of escalating feedback, as if to say that the true end of all things will also come without warning.
Abstracter‘s Wound Empire is a heavy, bleak and cinematic masterpiece that provides the backdrop for humanity’s fight for survival in a post-apocalyptic world. Thunderous, dismal post-metal and the occasional nod to black metal come together in one ambitious package. The Canadian post-rock collective Godspeed You! Black Emperor have often been revered for writing grandiose albums for the apocalypse. If that is the case, then Abstracter is metal’s answer to Godspeed.