By Nicholas Jason Lopez
After the release of singles “Bloodless” and “Darkness Falls,” Australian death metal studio project Aeons Abyss put out ‘Impenitent,’ an eight-track LP on Nov. 1, 2019.
Aeons Abyss was formed in 2017 by Lyricist/Vocalist Paul O’Brien and Songwriter/Musician Steve O’Brien (no relation other than through metal) to record music written in the early-to-mid 1990’s in death metal’s halcyon days.
Their second studio production features an abundance of old-school death metal peppered with blast beats, melodic riffs, transcendent guitar solos and guttural vocals that range over three octaves. Lyrically, it explores complex philosophical issues through extreme, genre-appropriate analogies. ‘Impenitent’ was mastered by Maor Appelbaum (Sabaton, Abbath, Sepultura, Sacred Reich, Faith No More) in Calif..
Music Bugle – What are your thoughts on the reaction to the new album so far?
Paul O’Brien – It seems to have been well-received. We had a preconception for how the songs should sound and the recording process always introduces its own wrinkles. You cannot but help compare your product to its influences and we feel that this album represents what 90’s death metal means to us. It is encouraging when the accomplished mastering engineer, Maor Appelbaum, spontaneously recognizes the same potential and unifies its sound across the tracks and it is satisfying when reviewers also describe it realized. The description “proper old-school death-metal” is the highest praise that we have received. We don’t expect universal appreciation even within the splintered Death Metal subgenre and we are uncompromising regardless to only create music with personal relevance, but it is nice to find an audience and we treasure our listeners.
Music Bugle – What inspired the ‘Impenitent’ name?
Paul O’Brien – “Impenitent” was the obvious title for track one, telling the story of an unrepentant soul caste into hell not to find torment, but upon debauched pleasure. His gratification is so intense and insistent that it becomes progressively indistinguishable from torture, yet even then, he will not relent from his appetites. We commissioned an ink drawing of the concept from an extremely talented artist @Satta_la_main_verte, who posts on Instagram, for use in a music video. His work was so good that we decided to use it for the album cover instead and “Impenitent” became our title track.
Music Bugle – What’s something you think people should know about Aeons Abyss?
Paul O’Brien – Our legacy is our music. We have very broad musical and lyrical influences and we believe that death metal and black metal have limitless expressive power that we want to use to tell stories that entertain and amuse while they sit as the backdrop, satirizing ordinary life that in the final instance has more similarities than differences across distance and culture and even through time.
Music Bugle – In your opinion, what’s your biggest frustration with the music industry and can it be fixed?
Paul O’Brien – Advances in recording technology have allowed us to record our music representative of its vision that was unimaginable for an independent artist back when we started in the 1990s. We couldn’t gig then, so we ceased to exist. Furthermore, the Internet allows us to disseminate our music across the world that was unfathomable in Australia of the late last century. These opportunities are universal and we release ‘Impenitent’ on a noisy metal scene with hopes that it might be appreciated by fans of old school death metal when they are unlikely even to hear it on digital music platforms managed by computer algorithms and while record labels stand deafly aloof anxious for the next Youtube sensation where quirkiness and visuals assume disproportionate importance. So it ever was and we are grateful for our small opportunity, but it makes us all the more appreciative of every listener open to trying independent music without the flood of marketing. We are thankful too, for the consideration of reviewers and of interviewers prepared to judge us on merit. Each of you justifies our existence.
Music Bugle – What’s your most meaningful song or set of lyrics?
Paul O’Brien – “Agony Vision” describes my fascination for annihilation, during those dark periods when the urge to escape self-recrimination and self-loathing culminated in a longing for accidental death. I stopped short of contemplating suicide, but I think that its instinct is a universal human flaw. I was then involved in a car accident when I succumbed to the opportunity not to avert it and while I was launched from the dark road upon a thicket of trees, I expected to die and I can remember anticipating the overwhelming blow and in that moment, the release from consequences was immeasurably peaceful and an ironically life-affirming experience.
Music Bugle – What are the band’s future plans? Anything set for 2020 so far?
Paul O’Brien – Steve is a proliferative songwriter and while I wrote new lyrics and recorded vocals for the 90s era songs that constitute ‘Impenitent,’ he continued to create contemporary tracks that form the basis for our second LP that we expect to release in mid-2020. Presently, we are a two-piece recording project while Adam (formerly our guitarist/songwriter in the band when we were Cataclysm in the early 90’s) sits in the background as a guitarist/songwriter and James (formerly our Cataclysm drummer) as a drums technical contributor. We are also compromised to live in separate states, but we remain excited to play some live shows.
Music Bugle – In terms of writing music, what is your biggest inspiration?
Paul O’Brien: Steve wrote a series of entertaining articles for @aeonsabyss on Instagram, detailing our musical influences across the spectrum from classic heavy metal to thrash, from death metal to grind core and black metal and doom metal. In many respects, it represents the tip of the iceberg as our influences are legion and I love it when he describes a new riff or solo inspired by an orchestral piece by Bartok or Mahler. There is a song for the new album, for example, whose working title is “Rachmaninov.” I am always attracted to charismatic vocals and I recognize distinct death metal vocal styles and appreciate how black metal and grind core vocals diverge again from these. It is exciting to apply my interpretation of these techniques to suit the mood of different lyrics, hoping that they will morph into something unique from my own throat. It saddens me when particularly doom metal vocalists revert to a clean vocal style as it seems like a concession to the limits of proper death metal vocals when I am confident that they are capable of expressing the full compliment of human emotions and I am ambitious to do so in our works.
Music Bugle – What’s the biggest difference between the band’s earliest days and nowadays?
Paul O’Brien – Life’s experiences deepen the character of our contemporary songs, both as the distillation of wider musical influences, but also in the tenor of its stories. I compare the lyrics for “Discorporated,” written in 1992 with those for “Descend Into Nihilism” (from the EP, ‘Pity Eloquence’) written in 2018 for example, that both describe the moment of death and it’s remarkable how cynical I have become! These days, we are less drawn to the fantastic and the profane than to how these might allegorize the absurdities of daily life.
Music Bugle – What has been your most memorable show played and why?
Paul O’Brien – Our most memorable show remains probably our first, performed while we were still in high school in rural Victoria. While Steve settled into a composed and accomplished presence, I was seized by a ridiculous on-stage personality and the reaction from our non-metal audience was spontaneous and inspiring.
Music Bugle – What is something the band is working to improve on the most?
Paul O’Brien – In representing our inner mental life, our music will always be subject to changing perspectives and to novel influences. Our first ambition was to realize the catalogue of songs we had created in the 1990’s and we were careful to represent ‘Impenitent’ as nearly as it was engendered back then. The new songs will more freely express our contemporary biases. Personally as described earlier, I am keen to broaden the expressive range of my death metal vocals to sit more sympathetically with the pathos of Steve’s music. The preponderant structure of our songs is lyrics inspired by pre-written music. The small sample of the converse including “Darkness Falls” and “Discorporated,” demonstrate Steve’s remarkable interpretative skills and if I can ever match his creative output, you will then see more examples, as remains my ambition for album 3. The next LP will be more cohesive in that the lyrics will describe a single continuous story. Regardless, Aeons Abyss will continue as the expression of our existential angst that may yet resonate with a few of you.