One of the best things about reviewing music is that something can be thrown my way that I might otherwise not have come across. This happened recently, when I was offered Aborym’s latest album, Hostile. I knew of the band, as I enjoyed their 2017 release, Shifting.negative, though at the time I seemed to be one of few who did. The band had previously been a black metal band who integrated industrial sounds into their mix, but I knew none of that. Shifting.negative was the first thing I had heard from the band, and I loved it. But black metal it was not. Reading reviews at the time, it seemed the general consensus that the new album was a horrible new direction for the band. Indeed, it wouldn’t have surprised me if Hostile had been named as such because of the reception its predecessor received. It seems that in the interim, Aborym have released a three album series of soundtrack and remix tracks, which I guess I shall delve into soon. But for now, the focus should be on the new album, and, in my opinion, it deserves that focus.
Will it bring back the fans the band lost after the release of Shifting.negative? I would say definitely not. But for people like me, who came to the band without knowing its history prior to that 2017 album and enjoyed it for what it was – a perfectly respectable slab of progressive industrial music, fusing elements and influences from bands such as The Young Gods, Silly Puppy and Ministry, among others – then Hostile takes that formula and makes it even more interesting and enjoyable. I liked Shifting.negative, but I love Hostile. Everything about it is insanely well done. Composition, performance and production. The music and the mix is wonderful, and although it has none of the extreme metal that the band had prior to Shifting.negative, Hostile feels more extreme. Perhaps, even, it might win some of the old fans back after all? Honestly, I am unsure. It is undoubtedly heavier (in sound, volume, weight, and feeling, and however else you like to define that word) than Shifting.negative, and it’s far more reminiscent of more black metal infused albums such as Dirty. But it’s still the “new” Aborym.
I guess you could draw comparisons with Opeth, and how their music changed post-growl but has come back closer to their old sound even if the growls have not returned. That’s about where Aborym appear to be. There is so much menace in opening track Disruption that the title of the album is already something tangible. I can feel the hostility, and it’s amazingly palpable when you consider how little this track provides sonically. The greatest threat is delivered with minimal fuss and noise. In the last minute-and-a-half, the tone and volume changes dramatically, and it hits hard. Even after repeated listens, and knowing it is coming, it still somehow surprises me. A perfect jump scare. But here is where it becomes more interesting for me. The band could easily have jumped back into their old sound from this point. It would not have been a stretch at all to fall back into blast beats and black metal vocals here, and resurrect the band of old.
Instead, second song Proper Use of Myself is reminiscent of Perverse-era Jesus Jones mixed with Ænima-era Tool. At the time, Melody Maker (I think it was) suggested that Jesus Jones sounded like “the Prodigy fist fucking The Young Gods”. If that were the case, then this is Aborym seeing Jesus Jone’s fist fuck, and raising it with Tool’s Stinkfist. I can’t say I really heard much Tool on Shifting.negative, but I definitely do on Hostile. One more ingredient in their recipe of industrial sound that seems less about satisfying their fans as themselves. And, when it comes down to it, I love when a band or artist displays that kind of “don’t give a fuck” attitude. Apparently the band “sold out” with Shifting.negative. Let’s face it, bands pretty much never sell out. That’s just something their fans accuse them of. Hostile is one big Hooker with a Penis. Fuck you, buddy. The is the Proper Use of Myself, and I’m totally down with it.
And although I’m mentioning names, Aborym really sounds like none. Shifting.negative was criticised for sounding like a derivative misdirection into industrial (which I don’t really hear myself), but I can’t see Hostile receiving the same criticism, simply because the sound is all over the place compared to the previous album. There are so many influences thrown into the pot, and mixed so thoroughly, that it’s hard to say the band sound like any other band, so much as are reminiscent at times. And I’m not even convinced that what I’m hearing is what the band were even influenced by, so much as me pulling inferences for the sake of attempting to find comparisons for the sake of this review. I hear bands like Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Pink Floyd, and Portishead, as much as I hear bands like Ephel Duath, Machines of Loving Grace, Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, Skinny Puppy and The Young Gods.
I guess you could argue that Shifting.negative was less progressive than the band’s former blend of black metal and industrial, but I think Hostile could be the band’s most progressive release, yet. Even if industrial has long since passed its peak of popularity, Aborym are showing there is still new ground to be made. And even if there is no overt black metal in Hostile, I am reminded at times of progressive black metal bands such as Progenie Terrestre Pura and White Ward, whose music is full of atmosphere and texture that is at least as important, if not more so, than the music. Hostile travels the same territory, and there are many atmospheric (dare I say cinematic?) moments where the textures and moods invoked are deliciously emotive. There are some quiet and minimalist moments that are almost ambient. And then some gloriously anthemic songs like Lava Bed Sahara, which reminds me a little of God Lives Underwater, and the way they fused industrial with alternative (almost like Stabbing Westward meets Alice in Chains).
The press release I received with Hostile calls it “their most challenging studio album to date”, and this might not be far wrong. Layer upon layer of different sounds are piled together in a way that could be confusing for some listeners. It’s not an easy or cohesive listen the first time around. As much as I liked Shifting.negative, I was left a little bemused by Hostile at first. I knew I liked it, but I wasn’t sure how much, and I wasn’t sure why. It’s not as immediate as the preceding album, but ultimately it is far more rewarding. Unlike Shifting.negative, there are quite a few songs which I could easily imagine being black metal, if the band so desired. But to have done so would be to take a step backwards, and clearly the band are looking ever forwards. And I absolutely love that they are, because this is the best album I have heard from the band by a very long shot.
Hostile is a schizophrenic, kaleidoscopic, ever-changing barrage of hostility occasionally wrapped up in a more melodic skin, but never something that feels fully safe. The Pursuit of Happiness, for example, is a glorious dirge sung by someone that would be more likely to revel in Dexter’s happiness as he dispatches his next victim, than by chasing unicorns and candy floss. On their Bandcamp page, Aborym claim to have a “post-industrial (prog)rock-metal aesthetic”. I think they rather have a maladjusted, murderous and malevolent aesthetic that is presented via a progressive industrial musical performance. It feels nasty, and I feel nasty for liking it – but like it, I do, and very much so. I liked Shifting.negative, but made no effort to follow the band that made it. I love Hostile, and I can’t wait to hear what Aborym come up with next!
01. Disruption (5:35)
02. Proper Use of Myself (4:33)
03. Horizon Ignited (5:47)
04. Stigmatized (Robotripping) (3:15)
05. The End of a World (6:06)
06. Wake Up, Rehab (4:23)
07. Lava Bed Sahara (4:15)
08. Radiophobia (4:48)
09. Sleep (5:16)
10. Nearly Incomplete (2:47)
11. The Pursuit of Happiness (6:09)
12. Harsh and Educational (4:11)
13. Solve Et Coagula (3:07)
14. Magical Smoke Screen (5:51)
Total Time – 66:03
Fabrizio Giannese – Vocals, Programming, Piano, Synth
Riccardo Greco – Bass, Guitars, Programming
Gianluca Catalani – Drums, Pads, Electronics
Tomas Aurizzi – Guitars
Record Label: Dead Seed Productions
Country of Origin: Italy
Date of Release: 12th February 2021