Sometimes I forget I’m considered a music critic, because I’m really just a fan boy lucky enough to occasionally be paid for my opinions. But critics LOVE when an album/movie/book title can be used as a simple headline; let’s say, for example, the Seymour Hoffman/DeNiro film Flawless (Not quite Flawless, LOLOLOLOL!). Here we have an album named Abysmal, from Hollow Leg, a band from northern Florida that has an “affinity for the roots of American blues music and English metal,” so says their promo material. ‘Abysmal’ just happens to be one of those beautiful words that can be used to both praise and reprimand a piece of art; abysmal most often refers to something of poor quality, but can also describe something that is limitless and deeply profound. Boasting powerful performances from each musician, and offering eight tracks of zero-horseshit, Sabbath-informed sludge (is there any other kind?), Abysmal is built on a solid blues rock foundation with hardcore intensity and addresses themes that may not reach profundity, but are absolutely universal.
I first need to mention that in the second song, “8 Dead (in a Mobile Home),” I heard Scott Angelacos’ howl and immediately thought, “Oh shit, how did it take me a full song to realize this is the Junior Bruce vocalist?” He has one of those instantly recognizable voices that can’t be unheard. I say this more as a warning for non-metalheads: You will be haunted by the voice of Angelacos, which is strong enough to tattoo pentagrams in your ear canal. For metal fans: Rejoice, because his delivery is singularly awesome.
Most of the album feels like Iron Monkey accidentally stumbled into slightly gentler melodies. “Ride to Ruin” introduces a fuzzy higher-register lead to join Tom Crowther’s burly bass tones, and will be my motorcycle soundtrack when I’m eventually an outlaw biker with an eight-foot long beard. Brent Lynch provides some memorable riffs here, with “Blissful Nothing” syphoning Eyehategod’s groove and capturing the slow-motion sense of a day passing sluggishly on hashish, and “Cry Havoc” trapping the listener in an alligator death-roll as drummer Tim Creter goes in for the kill after some Big Black-era Orange Goblin goodness.
While the mixing on both “The Dog” and “Lord Annihilation” feels a little flat, lacking contrast and punch despite some great hooks and well-built tension, Abysmal is an album that’s the middle sprinter in a relay race, taking the baton from the UK’s best doom bands and handing it off to the crusty, lice-scalped troublemakers of the sludge scene. Though the song structures are closely related to 90s hardcore, this album will lead riff-worshipping fanatics of the slow and heavy into the exceptionally loud, wolf-infested abyss. And that, right there, is as close to a title-related catchphrase as I get.
Check out Abysmal over on bandcamp and get yourself the album on vinyl, or by instant download: http://hollowleg666.bandcamp.com/
And check out Hollow Leg over on Facebook, and maybe some day they will answer what they would hide in a prosthetic limb: https://www.facebook.com/hollowlegfl