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Now defunct New York grindcore unit Brutal Truth observed in 1992 that “Extreme Conditions Demand Extreme Responses” and they couldn’t have been more right in that assessment. Marlborough, Massachusetts death metal upstarts Abnormality have been experiencing a meteoric rise in popularity. They made a name for themselves with their independently distributed “The Collective Calm In Mortal Oblivion” EP and inked a deal with Sevared Records (which embodies about the worst of United Guttural, Pavement/Crash Music, and Comatose Music, combined) on the back of its success. “Contaminating the Hive Mind” followed two years later and their ascending popularity helped Abnormality secure a contract with Metal Blade Records. The presence of one Mallika Sundaramurthy certainly helps but it would all be for naught if she was merely a pretty face. No. Abnormality has a penchant for writing chunky death metal that is groovy and technical in equal measure. They aren't afraid of a good hook or guitar solo either.

The past four years have been a period of great unrest; political, social, and otherwise. Abnormality has always been inspired by socio-political events but “Sociopathic Constructs” is the first time the Bostonians dedicate an entire record to the subject. Sundaramurthy (who now lives in the Czech Republic) and her men aren’t going to let the current political climate and turmoil pass without taking a stand nor without a fight. This is a band that wants to be remembered for being on the right side of history. Sundaramurthy has every reason to be foaming at the mouth looking at the increasingly theocratic – and totalitarian state of her first adopted home. Professional con man and supposed savior of the fundamentalist Christian Wrong Donald Trump has somehow been elevated to the country’s highest office and things have been getting worse from there. In his first (and, hopefully, only) term the Orange Idiot has facilitated widespread corruption and cronyism, has seen to the systemic oppression of minorities, the erosion of civil liberties, the abolition of women’s rights, and the dismantling of what little social security existed in the Land of the Free. America has entered a second Dark Age, one of religious superstition and proud anti-intellectualism. “Sociopathic Constructs” is a scathing polemic against the current powers that be.

Sundaramurthy has always had a razorsharp pen and songtitles as ‘Fabrication Of the Enemy’, ‘A Chaos Reserved’, ‘Vigilant Ignorance’, and ‘Hopeless Masses’ in their repertoire it will surprise absolutely no one that “Sociopathic Constructs” pushes their socio-political angle to the fore. Abnormality isn’t as overtly political as, say, Dying Fetus or Fear Factory but that doesn’t remove that “Sociopathic Constructs” has some of this band’s finest work on the compositional – and lyric writing front. Mallika has always been a marvelous woman that serves as an inspiration to many of her sisters. She’s an outspoken and fiercely intelligent woman; a feminist, veganist, and small business owner. On “Sociopathic Constructs” Mallika once again showcases why she’s one of the best frontpersons in the business. She truly is the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of the underground. The rest of the band (yeah, apparently there are other people in Abnormality outside of Mallika, as hard as it may be to believe) doesn’t falter either. Guitarist duo Jeremy Henry and Sam Kirsch unleash a veritable maelstrom of concrete riffing schemes with rhythm section Josh Staples (bass guitar) and Jay Blaisdell (drums) meting out swift punishment without resorting to random chaos for its own sake. We were more than a little indifferent towards “Mechanisms Of Omniscience” but “Sociopathic Constructs” is the record we always knew Abnormality had in them. Which is to say, “Sociopathic Constructs” absolutely and categorically slays. Everything has been building up to this. This is the album where Abnormality fulfills its potential.

One of Abnormality’s greatest strengths has always been their sense of propulsion and drive. “Sociopathic Constructs” is what Disgorge would sound like if they played with the chunk of early Cannibal Corpse and the technicality and production value of Brain Drill. This is what we hoped the Drill’s “Boundless Obscenity” would have sounded like or what Suffocation’s “…Of the Dark Light” would have been if they fully shed their skin and the pretense that they still had anything to do with the Suffocation that wrote “Breeding the Spawn”. Abnormality answers the question what Cannibal Corpse would have sounded like had they persevered with the technical direction of “Butchered at Birth”. Abnormality has always excelled in merging California informed technicality and percussiveness with a level of intensity not unlike Québecois death metal. Hopefully the current climate - social, political, and otherwise - will inspire Mallika, and Carolina Perez (from Queens, New York combo Hypoxia) to revive their sometime feminist death metal side-project Castrator. If there ever was a time for that, that time is now. What better reason than the serial sex offender holding the highest political office in the land?

Art does not exist in a vacuum (no matter how much certain demographics might prefer to delude themselves into thinking otherwise). Art reflects the society in which it was created. “Sociopathic Constructs” is one such creations. This is a record that couldn’t have been released in any other time than the year 2019. The Talibangelicals have been working overtime to transform America in the great Christian theocracy they’ve been so long desiring. Never mind that the Land of the Free is collapsing into the state of the backwater banana republics they’ve been bombing into submission for the last several decades. The War on Terror has been on of the greatest swindles of modern history and the US military-industrial complex has always been a savage imperialistic beast that always takes but never gives. “Sociopathic Constructs” does absolutely take no prisoners and its message of disconformity and protest is loud and clear. No longer can we afford to idly sit by as the world burns to a cinder. “Sociopathic Constructs” might not have the storytelling capacity of an “Operation: Mindcrime” exactly, but as a loosely conceptual recording this couldn’t have come at a better time.

It has been five long years since Cape Noire unconspicuously released her “Ad Nauseam” debut on an unsuspecting world. We had just about given up on ever hearing something from the enigmatic Paris, France electro/triphop diva again until “Javel” (French for ‘bleach’) quite unexpectedly turned up in our social media feed. A lot can (and will) happen in five years and just when we thought Cape Noire had retired her cape to the vestiaire she strikes back with “Javel”. Just like its illustrious predecessor “Javel” is 5 tracks or about 15 minutes of smooth, catchy triphop with a pulsating electro bend. One French newspaper dubbed her “gothic electronic” in 2015 and that is perhaps the most accurate way of describing what Cape Noire sounds like in lieu of actually hearing her yourself. There are worse ways of spending 15 minutes than in company of Parisian fashion icon Cape Noire.

For the last couple of years we feared that the curtain had fallen over Cape Noire. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. The mysterious blackcaped musician returns with “Javel” after a 5-year exile. Just like on “Ad Nauseam” the question on everybody’s mind is, “who is Cape Noire?” and the answer is obvious and evident to those in the know. What is certain is that Cape Noire is a versatile and experienced performer who has been a mainstay in the French pop – and rock world at least since the early 2000s. As a musician Cape Noire has tried her hand at a multitude of genres before taking on her current alter ego. That Cape Noire even extended beyond the initial “Ad Nauseam” EP is cause for celebration in and of itself. “Javel” builds upon the aura of mystique of the debut and cements that Cape Noire is one of the most fascinating new voices in the world of electro, industrial, and triphop. Cape Noire is the sound of the future…

In case there’s any doubt “Javel” sounds like an illicit lovechild between “Pretty Hate Machine” Nine Inch Nails, Kosheen circa “Resist” with bluesy vocals à la KT Tunstall. It’s amazing just how close to Sian Evans that Cape Noire sounds. Now even moreso than on “Ad Nauseam”. Instantly laying waste to any doubts opening track ‘The Prey’ has a bouncing beat and reassures that “Javel” is a continuation from the first EP. ‘Till It’s Over’ borrows not only part of the title but also a chorus line from Lenny Kravitz’ ‘It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over’. ‘Geometric Love’ opens with a romantic piano sure to make you think Cape Noire is going to get her Vanessa Carlton or Tori Amos on. ‘Kiss Of the Virgin’ strays the widest from anything Cape Noire has done previously. Only after almost 2 minutes of just piano and vocals the drum machine kicks in. It’s the closest thing to an actual ballad you’re likely to hear from Cape Noire. Just like “Ad Nauseam” before it “Javel” is catchy, soulful, and danceable. There are the occassional darker moments and melodies, but things never get as harrowing, dissonant, and ungentle as, say, Chu Ishikawa but neither does “Javel” ever succumb to forcing itself into any subdued pop hooks present just below the surface .

So far Cape Noire has persisted with the EP format but we’d love to hear what she could come up with the ebbs and flow within the context of a full album. At the quarter of an hour “Javel” is over before you know it. If we were to split hairs it could be noted that the piano doesn’t feature quite as prominently as it did on the first EP. The vocals on the last two tracks are somewhat more nasally than in the first three. The production is virtually identical to that of “Ad Nauseam” but everything is a little fuller and warmer sounding. If “Javel” is testament to anything, it’s that Cape Noire is more comfortable in her niche. “Javel” possesses a great focus and the hooks are catchier than ever before. For those who keep track of such things, the artwork of both EPs is identical – except that the dominant color on “Ad Nauseam” was black whereas here it is white. We wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Cape Noire ends up ghostwriting for other Francophone artists (we’d love to hear what she could write for Jamie-Lee Smit, for example) and we’d love to hear Cape Noire tackle dub techno, progressive electronic, or even ambient. Hell, we’d love a Cape Noire piano-pop record. It would probably sound something like “Rabbits On the Run” or “Liberman”, and that’d be wickedly awesome.

We’re looking forward to hearing in whatever direction Cape Noire decides to move from here. It would be interesting to hear what she could come up within the full album format or whether she’s going to perservere with EPs for the time being. It’s good having Cape Noire back after a five-year hiatus and it remains a question for the ages why the mainstream hasn’t picked up on her yet. Cape Noire would go over well over alternative festivals, high-end dance temples, as well as goth clubs. The beauty of Cape Noire is that there’s something for everybody. “Javel” was very much worth the five-year wait but we can only hope that Cape Noire will return sooner rather than later with the follow-up. A release like this only intensifies the mystique surrounding Cape Noire and her music. Whether her insistence on anonymity is a boon or a bane to the overall enjoyment of her music is entirely up to the individual listener. Good having you back, Cape Noire.