French quintet Eryn Non Dae. are back with a massive slab of math-minded sludge. Abandon of the Self follows a six-year absence after 2012’s Meliora, and finds the band settling into a more reserved, contemplative approach. Whereas previous material spent more time punishing the listener with breakneck tempos and eardrum-battering percussive rhythms, the new album is characterized by expansive introductions, simplified riffs, and moody drumming. There are peaks that almost rival the intensity of their prior catalogue, but they certainly wander through the valleys a lot more along the way.
Opening triad of tracks “Astral”, “Stellar”, and “Omni” each take their time, patiently building their gloomy atmosphere as the guitars and drums gradually drift towards full-blown heaviness. “Stellar” has a riveting climax around the five-minute mark, while “Omni” uses a two-pronged strategy with the song ramping up in the middle, dying down, and then returning for a final push. “Halo” flips this into a post-metal staple, the heavy-light-heavy song structure, with an atmospheric middle section dividing the song in half. “Fragment” is the most classic-sounding track here, more upbeat from the beginning and paying off with a powerful drum exhibition around the 5:30 mark.
Guitars vacillate between creative chord choices and anti-riffs that meander on the root and flat second. The bass is thick and often distorted, shoulder to shoulder with the guitars and deployed in much the same way. The vocals cover broad territory, though I could have done with a bit less of the rambling spoken word that dots tracks like “Stellar” and “Abyss”. The drumming, as noted above, is largely restrained and tom-heavy, but does have moments where it carries the torch capably.
Overall, Eryn Non Dae. sacrifice the trappings of traditional melodicism in order to treat each instrument as a percussive building block, in much the way Meshuggah made famous but without as much interest in groove. As such, they are a sort of sludgy post-metal incarnation of the Meshuggah aesthetic, designed not to blow you away but rather to erode you over eons – a river of rhythm, not a bomb of brutality. I think I prefer the more aggressive Meliora, but I don’t think they needed to remake it, and I applaud them for trying something different. Eryn Non Dae. is a snake that’s shed its skin, but their venom is still as potent as ever.