If you like music that melts your face off, then Traverse the Abyss is the band for you! These guys from Scranton, Pennsylvania play metal so heavy, it’ll knock you on your ass. The first time I listened to their debut album The Gamble of Life I was blown away by the sustained, unrelenting fury of their instrumentals and vocals from beginning to end. The thing is, despite the crushing intensity of their music, it’s still accessible and highly melodic. As an added bonus, their lyrics are heavily peppered with “fuck” – my favorite word in the English language.
The band formed only a year ago, in early 2016, and spent much of the year writing and recording songs for their debut album, which was released in November. For the recording of the album, the band line-up included Eric Ross on lead vocals, “Iron” Mike White on lead guitar, Mike “Bnoc” Bieniecki on bass/backing vocals, and Phil Luongo on drums. Luongo left the band in January 2017 and they welcomed new drummer Nelson Negron and second guitarist Seth Cardona.
The music style of Traverse the Abyss draws from classic heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, groove metal, metalcore, hard rock, rock’n’roll and punk. In a conversation with band front man Eric via Twitter messaging, he stated “we are all fans of metal and all the different sub genres within it. We like to blend all our influences together to get a more unique sound compared to the monotony of most modern music. Instead of going towards an album with intentions of writing to appeal to only one crowd like some deathcore & death metal bands do, we write more based on the vibe presented.”
Regarding the gambling/card theme of the album and song titles, Eric explained “The gambling theme came into play when we first started writing songs. The first two songs we wrote were ‘Royal Flush’ and ‘One of a Kind,’ and our guitarist said ‘what are we going with, a gambling theme?’ Gambling themed titles with a life reference in the song: ‘One of a Kind’ – be yourself; ‘Snake Eyes’ – death/bullets/hatred; ‘Joker’ – being used/revenge.”
The album storms out of the gate with the first track “One of a Kind.” No song lead-in here, but rather an instantaneous onslaught of pummeling bass, machine-gun riffs, hammering drums and Eric’s furious vocals. He screams “Am I the only one who follows his own path? Am I the only one that doesn’t live by a fad?” Halfway through, the song tempo changes a bit, guitars and heavy bass ablaze as Eric shrieks “I would like to know, who the fuck you think you are? You act like you’re some sort of god.”
Not skipping a beat, the second track “All In” explodes with a full-on assault of blistering guitars, powerful bass and fierce vocals. The song is a thrash metal/rock’n’roll gem, even containing a ‘sex, drugs, rock’n’roll‘ lyric. There’s no let up as the album segues to the brutally hard-hitting “Royal Flush.” Unbelievably, the ferocity of Eric’s hardcore, growling vocals reach new heights, and remain there in the intensely dark “21 or Bust.” He screams “Who do I ask these questions? Who’s got a fucking answer? I just want to know what’s the meaning of life.” Shredded guitars and more savage vocals are the highlights of the menacing “Snake Eyes.” By this point, I’m wondering if Eric has any vocal cords left!
I like every song on the album, but a favorite is the frenetic, punk-infused “Aces High.” Awesome, rapid-fire guitar riffs, buzzing bass and staccato drums keep the energy at full speed. Eric’s vocals alternate between clear and hardcore, and I love when he sings “woo” at 2:44, providing a bit of levity in an otherwise intense song. Speaking of which, the intensity dial is turned all the way to ‘High’ on “Diamonds.” The machine-gun-fire bass and hardcore vocals are positively brutal, yet we’re treated to some melodic guitar solos too. Eric growls “Fuck your Disrespect. Its funny now I see the people who support me. Just look over my shoulder and you’ll see the people who matter to me.”
“Joker” is the perfect kiss-off – or should I say ‘fuck-off’ song – with furious instrumentals and vocals to match the searing lyrics: “Reap what you sow, don’t go crying to me./ To be honest, I think you should go fuck yourself!” The fury continues unabated in “Bullets“, with staccato riffs and hammering drums that literally sound like machine gun fire. The album closes with the superb title track “Gamble of Life.” The nearly six and a half minute song begins with a haunting distorted guitar solo accompanied by mysterious vocals, then abruptly changes to a rapid heavy metal beat. Bnoc’s staccato bass is at full throttle, with pummeling drums and shredded guitars keeping pace. Eric’s screaming hardcore vocals intensify in the last two minutes, and by song’s end I’m completely spent.
The Gamble of Life is an impressive debut album from this highly talented group of musicians. I’m confident we’ll be hearing more great music from them in the future. Support Traverse the Abyss by following them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to their YouTube channel and stream their music on Spotify. Gamble of Life may be purchased on iTunes and other music sites offering music for download.