Composed of several present and past members of classic Greek black metal bands (and a former Obsecration member), Soulskinner have been chugging out great death metal for two decades now between their current name and their original one. A lot of bands lose steam over that long of a period, but Soulskinner just keep putting out amazing stuff, and Descent to Abaddon is no exception. The album is absolutely massive in scope and to a lesser extent in style, ranging from a gorgeous thick atmosphere recalling some of the earlier Greek and Finnish death metal bands to the crush of Bolt Thrower, and even to moments that thrash or recall Deicide, all generally within the same song. Riffs range from a death/doom crawl to blazing speed and intensity, showcasing the band’s versatility and lack of interest in having a singular tempo to great success.
Despite a variety of influences that would overwhelm a lesser band, Soulskinner know how to effortlessly jump from one mood to another, though their real strength for me comes from the fantastic leads and the moodier bits of the album. The atmosphere that comes from the interplay of the leads and tremolo melodies is enrapturing and it’s hard to really make a comparison to any of the best sections because I don’t get the same vibe from many other bands despite the similarities to a lot of my favorites. Sometimes the leads make for a certain dreaminess that I don’t associate at all with good death metal, which adds an extra layer to an already gigantic album.
They also present an impressive lack of genuine weak points- the only real part of the entire album that actually bothers me is the breakdown in The Fall, and that part doesn’t last long enough to detract much from the entire song, let alone with the whole album. Something that some other fans of the band have criticized is that some of the leads and melodies are repeated throughout the album a bit too much, but as true as that is, it doesn’t irritate me at all; the variations on the same melodies are done well enough and are killer enough in the first place that hearing them in different contexts is a bonus more than anything else.
Overall, Descent to Abaddon is a fucking fantastic listen, and proof that Xtreem music is still putting out killer albums. Soulskinner’s previous album was finally released on vinyl last year, marking their first full length to be pressed to wax, and I really hope that this one is as well, because I’ve rarely heard an album so deserving of the vinyl treatment in recent years that hasn’t been pressed.