Aborted never cease to thrill. For over 25 years, the Belgian outfit have taken over deathgrind with force, their flair for horror and their ever-expanding technical finesse making them one of extreme metal’s most commanding acts today. While their earlier releases are satisfying rushes of adrenaline, Aborted unleashed a visceral onslaught in the form of 2016’s Retrograde, which they escalated further by carving out heavier riffs in 2018’s TerrorVision. They consistently manage to best themselves in technical ferocity, so it’s only fitting that ManiaCult does likewise.
The narrative of ManiaCult follows Wayland Thurston, a cult leader looking to serve Lovecraftian beings through torturing others. It’s not a new concept for death metal by any means, but the level of commitment Aborted put into bringing that story alive allows the concept to stand out among other similar-minded tales that strive to shock. And the narrative is even stronger because of the sonic element that accompanies it. Playing faster and heavier may not always deliver something of substance, but Aborted deliver just that. Opener “Verderf” sets the stage for the theatrical blood rush to come. The title track then shifts the record into a higher gear. Blast beats flood forth over a groovy, vibrant guitar rhythm. Low guttural vocals and high shrieks arise throughout, the frenzy of the track escalating, then cutting to a period where the instrumentation slows down (relatively speaking), bringing in an ominous air. The compositional template Aborted follows is direct and to the point: slam hard and slam fast; yet there are variations and nuances with each song, their talent for melody and technicality creating an exciting progression throughout the record. While the band as a unit all pull their weight, it is the feral performance of guitarist Ian Jekellis and drummer Ken Bedene that do the most to unleash the music’s visceral appeal.
The instrumental brutality also fuels the lyrical content, creating an ominous, atmospheric presence beneath the twisted storytelling. In following Wayland’s path of crazed violence, the listener encounters wave after wave of ripping, contorting, savage sounding death metal. The technicality Aborted display here creates an effective, purposeful aura of disarray—as if the listener is also succumbing to the madness. From the chilling introduction to the surreal spiral of thrashing that is “Portal to Vacuity,” from the hellish stampede of “I Prediletti: The Folly of the Gods,” this record is a test of the listener’s resolve. There isn’t a second that goes by where the band drop the immersive theatricality; even when there is a minor pause to offer something more somber, it only builds upon the discomfort and intensity.
Aborted records play out like horror movies where the blood and violence only ramp up over time. On ManiaCult, even after releasing two crushing records before it, Aborted offer a work that is even more devastating in its presentation. The added depth in the album’s story unravels a deeper layer to the band’s music, elevating their musical horrors. The pairing of sonic violence and nightmarish visions make ManiaCult an unforgettable headphone assault.
Label: Century Media
A graduate of Columbia College Chicago's Creative Writing Program, Michael Pementel is a published music journalist, specializing in metal and its numerous subgenres. Along with his work for Treble and Bloody Disgusting, he has also written for Consequence of Sound, Metal Injection, Dread Central, Electronic Gaming Monthly and the Funimation blog.