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After the rise and fall of Sepultura and before the advent of populist metal trio Nervosa there was Krisiun. Since 1990 the Kolesne brothers have been proudly flying the flag for Brazilian death metal. Often imitated, domestic and abroad, but never surpassed, their four-album jaunt up until 2001's "Ageless Venomous" was pretty much flawless. "Works Of Carnage" was a stylistic experiment that toyed with shorter, bouncier cuts and big choruses. On 2006’s “AssassiNation” things really took a turn for the worse. Those vainly hoping for a creative renaissance had their hopes squashed with “Forged In Fury”. That record was a bloated, over-long, directionless platter signaling that the brothers three had finally hit rockbottom. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is their latest and if Dying Fetus, Morbid Angel and Monstrosity can produce decent records in their old age, so can they.

After a quarter of a century and 10 albums there’s bound to be some fatigue to the way a band writes. Krisiun hasn’t been handling anti-Christian rhetoric exclusively since “AssassiNation”. “Southern Storm” and “The Great Execution” were records that dealt with historical and mythological concepts of beasts and war almost entirely. Krisiun has been writing loose concept albums for more than a decade now and with “Scourge Of the Enthroned” the brothers continue that trend. Instead of their usual themes “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is based on Sumerian mythology. Every formula eventually proves fatal and in Krisiun’s instance that happened with “Forged In Fury”. It was probably their most critically savaged recording in the 12 years that they’ve been releasing mere variations of “AssassiNation”. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is not the much pined after creative renaissance for the Brazilian brothers, but at least it’s marginally more inspired than the insipid and meandering song sets they’ve been releasing over the last 15 years. It is folly to expect them to write another “Black Force Domain” or “Apocalyptic Revelation” but if the riffing is anything to go by “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is a step in the right direction again. Is this the next great Krisiun record? Hardly, but does it ever try.

At least Krisiun heeded the criticism leveled at some of their more recent works and opted for more manageable song lengths. Krisiun are at their best when they stay within the four-minute range and don’t loose themselves in boundless repetition. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” sheds most, if not all, of the trio’s typical extraneous diversions. It’s refreshingly straightforward and doesn’t bother with any of the usual pointless instrumentals that have been littering their albums since “Works Of Carnage”. A good Krisiun record clocks in around the 40-minute mark and this album’s 38 minutes is far closer to “Apocalyptic Revelation” than it is to “Southern Storm”. The songwriting too seems to have improved, although not in any drastic or dramatic sense. The cuts are mercifully more to-the-point and some of the riffing leans closer to “Conquerors Of Armageddon” than it does to “Works Of Carnage” which is always a plus. Max Kolesne’s blasts these days are more concentrated around selective portions of songs instead of being their entire raison d'être. Just like everybody else age is inevitably catching up to Krisiun and they don’t play as rabid and frenetic as they once did. In a more general sense “Scourge Of the Enthroned” is one of the trio’s better offerings, but the days of “Apocalyptic Revelation” and “Ageless Venomous” are well and truly behind us now.

Krisiun has always been about precision. Alex, Moyses and Max are world-class instrumentalists cursed with a fairly regressive concept of songwriting. “Works Of Carnage” was entertaining just because it was an experiment. “AssassiNation” had more of a groove metal inclination but it worked well enough within that context. They were mere creative outliers in a repertoire of largely linear and percussive songwriting that drew equally from Morbid Angel as it did from early Sepultura and Slayer. What people seem to selectively forget is that there indeed was a Krisiun in those long forgotten, halcyon days prior to 2003. That exactly those outliers have since become the apparent norm and the accepted standard to which all new Krisiun output is measured is scary enough of a prospect all by itself. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” brings back at least a fraction of the old riffing schemes and cuts down on the repetition and groove-fixated songwriting choices that have been bogging down the Krisiun assault for over a decade. Alex Camargo is still the weakest link and his barks have been getting less guttural for a while now. Krisiun is, much like Obituary, a band that has embraced its regressive tendencies as if they were virtues. The brothers three have been growing complacent and if “Forged In Fury” conclusively proved anything it was that. Krisiun has been stagnating for quite a number of years now and "Scourge Of the Enthroned" might as well be the first sign of life in a long time. Not that it's bound to become a new classic or even mandatory within the larger Krisiun canon. It's solid and unadventurous.

So where does that place “Scourge Of the Enthroned” in the now extensive Krisiun discography? It’s better than their last couple of records but it’s still no match for their classic first four albums. The angular, linear songwriting of yore has been replaced with more melodic by-the-numbers songwriting that reeks of cold professionalism and years of experience, as much as process. Perhaps Krisiun is not quite as guilty of the latter as some of their contemporaries, but they haven't sounded inspired and inspiring for over a decade. “Scourge Of the Enthroned” might not be the grand return of a band that has been falling to the wayside for quite some time now, but it offers enough reasons to remain cautiously optimistic. We might not demand (or expect) another “Ageless Venomous” from these three brothers but “Scourge Of the Enthroned” offers at least a smidgen of hope of them still being able to concoct a reasonable facsimile thereof. At least it's better than "Forged In Fury" and that should count for something these days...

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.