I have no clue how I missed writing about this album last year, because I surely gave it a spin or at least heard when it came out. Anyhow, 2014 was not too long ago so here we are discussing Abest’s Asylum. Lately I’ve had hard times finding interesting German hardcore bands, which are not merely recycling music coming from… wherever. I mean yeah, they’re coming up with nice production and very refined versions of their influences, but I’m usually lacking a deeper look. Where’s the good 90s emo/screamo scene, where’s the experimental stuff… whatever.
On their first LP Abest show they already have been able to discover (and reveal) their own voice. While influences may be easily heard and pointed from the post-metal and metalic hardcore scene, in Asylum there’s something bigger of a leitmotif and I mean that very uncompromising wall of hidden and suppressed angst and anger, both perceived as means for survival. And that is like the blood running through the record.
The album is personal and powerful, it kicks in with the savage blast beat driven introduction of Nebel and from then on you’re not considering where this or that came from. Instead you are thrown in a vortex of massive and slowly creeping sound. The production really helps this one shine, everything is pumped and loud. Okay, maybe it could have been more abrasive and primitive. Especially I’d liked it more if the bass was fuzzier or just slightly more raw as its presence would really benefit some expansion. Music-wise Abest are perfectly balancing between the atmospheric semi-acoustic passages and their regular amplified sound. You don’t get the feeling they’re following a standard structure, but it feels organic to the stories told in the pieces.
And the lyrics on this one are very good. They’re laconic, just like written in one breath, but very picturesque nonetheless. The stories they tell can be interpreted in hundreds of ways. Reading and listening to them may make you feel indeed trapped in an asylum or shapeshifted into an animal, left alone and struggling for survival with all these words becoming eclectic impulses, instincts, fragmentary thoughts.
My one and only critic towards Asylum is that the album could have benefited from having more faster pieces or at least fragments. Just like the opener gives a hard push to the whole record. With the music let to reach higher tempos the listener could have been unable to so easily adjust to the essence of the soundscape, which Abest are revealing in this full-length, because once you get used to the pace the impact of the slow tracks is kind of lessened. I really hope to see how this sounds live, maybe the stage energy will be able to compensate this lack of more polar tempo switches.