Channelling the likes of early Immolation and with a vocal style from frontman/guitarist Han Shah reminiscent of Karl Sanders (Nile), ‘Abnegation’, the sophomore album from Singapore’s Nafrat (and their first in a decade) is a tour de force of death metal. From the opening track alone, Purify Lest Decay, Nefrat wastes no time thrusting us into the deep end with a multitude of sounds and tones that keep the listener invested. With Iconoclasts continuing this trend of brutality, it isn’t long before Formulate 624 hurls forth a plentiful supply of pleasurable grooves and a surprisingly soulful guitar solo midway through, courtesy of lead guitarist Iskandar Zul.
At first listen, the fourth track of the album Transcendence runs the risk of ‘sameness’, presenting an impression that you’ve already heard the same blast beats and harsh vocals via the previous three tracks – with little to differentiate them sufficiently. The opening to Transcendence, in particular, bears a remarkable similarity in structure to the very song that preceded it: Formulate 624. This, unfortunately, does not work in the album’s favour. What this song does do, however, is it begins to experiment as it goes along; offering a more complex song structure to those that came before it. Where at times, you’re assaulted by an unrelenting aural force, at others the mood slows to either make way for well-timed groove and melodic sections that lead into ferocious growls, chorus breakdowns that are designed for live headbanging, or fast, admirable leads.
The title track, however, offers the best reprieve from the album’s risk of ‘sameness’, opening with a breakdown that thrives on its own heaviness. It must be stressed here that Shah’s harsh vocals complement well the bleakness surrounding these tracks. His performance is raw, defined, and comes with a weight to it that adds stakes to the sounds Nafrat are producing and the themes of political and social unrest the album is exploring. The mix used for this album is also quite exceptional, allowing Asmat Tarmimi’s drums to stand front-and-centre alongside Firdaus Kadir’s bass. The clean backing vocals that round out Abnegation, however, feel strange and slightly out of place here.
By the time Of Worldly Gains rolled around, I was completely sold on Tarmimi’s technical capabilities as a drummer, being the strongest aspect of this song as a whole. His ability to simultaneously shift between a variety of play-styles, filling in each section as to the requirements of the song with the greatest of ease, is remarkable to listen to. Importantly, it is consistently smooth and his drum work really brings ‘Abnegation’ up a notch. In a scene saturated with technical instrumentation, it can be difficult for death metal bands to differentiate themselves, but with Into Oblivion and Theocracy, the weight of Nafrat’s mission to offer something profound on this record can be felt. Nafrat opts for an approach that is at times poignant (via its samples of mob chanting) and at others resonant in the deepness of its metallic melancholy. Subservient Forms offers much of the same effect as its preceding one and is a decent enough track all-round.
As the final song of the album, The Axis of Perdition pulls together the more memorable aspects of ‘Abnegation’, with ambient samples softening the groove-laden chaos that surrounds it. Shah leads a ferocious charge of blood and vitriol while the rest of Nafrat closes in behind him like hell chasing at Death’s heel. A fitting and uncompromising end to a worthy entry in death metal’s annals.
Get your copy of ‘Abnegation’, which is out now, HERE!