Give them the brutality they need | Absymal Torment

MaltaToday speaks to Max Vassallo, drummer of fan-favourite local death metal band Abysmal Torment, currently revving themselves up for an upcoming gig following the release of their critically acclaimed latest album, The Misanthrope

Abysmal Torment remain one of the most prominent Maltese death metal bands, even attracting fans and acclaim at an international scale
Abysmal Torment remain one of the most prominent Maltese death metal bands, even attracting fans and acclaim at an international scale

How would you describe the evolution of Abysmal Torment from its inception until now? What has changed along the way, and what were some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced?

I would say the band has evolved at quite a steady, constant and growing pace but somehow still managed to stay true to what we always wanted to achieve with our music which is essentially gut pounding, head-banging death metal.

Our musical style has changed and matured over the years; we have become more technical, precise and powerful, yet still managed to keep the groove and punch from our earlier releases. Same goes for the line-up. As members come and go, it is sometimes hard to keep up the same drive and energy once a certain bond has been established with current members. Thankfully, this wasn’t such an issue in our case.

Everyone who was ever part of Abysmal Torment has always been a pleasure and delight to work with while contributing greatly in the evolution of the band, and we are extremely lucky for that. Our biggest challenge to date has been dealing with the untimely and unfortunate passing of our dearest brother Wayne Vella, whose absence will always be felt and can never be replaced.

He was an influential figure in the metal scene and beyond, probably the best death metal drummer the scene has ever had the pleasure to witness and he was a true inspiration to all that knew him. He is and will be dearly missed.

However, Abysmal Torment remains one of the most popular Maltese acts in its genre, even on an international scale. What would you say contributed to this fact, and how do you feel about being something of a reference point for the Maltese metal scene?

I think recognising what the listener wants and needs is what creates a perfect synergy between musicians and listeners. Listening to your audience, understanding the way they react to your music, and accepting criticism and all sorts of suggestions is by far a large contributing factor to any musician’s success.

Ignoring the fans and what they want is never a good thing. All musicians should remember that a band is never any bigger than its followers, and without their support, aiming for success is just pointless. We would like to thank all the fans for the constant support and dedication they have shown throughout the years and we applaud them for making Abysmal Torment what it is today. Without all of them we would never be where we are.  

How would you say that the metal scene has changed over the past five or ten years? Would you say new bands face the same problems you did back in the day, and do you think it’s easier for Maltese acts to ‘export’ their music abroad nowadays?

Rather than ‘change’, I think ‘evolve’ seems to be a more appropriate description. Change implies it has become something different when in reality, it is still what it always was: a metal scene drowned in talent on a tiny island in the Mediterranean. What it has evolved into is another story. The problems in today’s music scene are very different from the ones we faced in the past.

For starters, I can’t remember having any real problems with venues back in the day. Unfortunately, finding access to play loud, head-banging metal in 2019 in front of a  live audience is proving to be a difficult task. We literally have just one venue where the whole scene can perform. Thankfully, all the guys from The Garage are doing an amazing job at hosting kick-ass events each and every weekend for all of us to let loose, drink some beers and nod our heads.

On the other hand these days everyone has way more access to music, recording software, tabs, online tutorials, you name it. You can become a kick-ass producer if you want to and own nothing but a laptop and headphones. The downside of this is that the competition has become even greater, and it’s probably the hardest time ever to succeed in music, no matter the genre. It’s a kind of Catch-22 situation I guess. That being said, one thing will always remain true no matter what. Without hard work, dedication and the will to constantly improve, no one can ever move forward.

Are you excited about your upcoming gig with Killing Adrenaline? What kind of vibe are you expecting, and what do you hope your fans will get out of it?

Oh hell yes! We can’t wait to head out there and share the stage with Killing Adrenaline! We know each other very well on both a personal and professional level and expect nothing but the best performance from these guys. All of them have years of musical experience under their belt and they will deliver a sensational show just as always. Anyone attending is bound to have a killer night! My only hope is that the fans don’t end up stumbling back home with too many bruises from the mosh pit...

What’s next for you?

We have a couple of gigs scheduled abroad this year which we are really looking forward to. Our first is a mini tour in May in the UK where we will be performing in the famous Underworld in London alongside black metal veterans Mayhem. We are also extremely proud to be playing Deathfeast Open Air once again in Germany with our brothers from Repugnance. We shared the stage with these crazy mofos a number of times and it’s gonna be even more awesome doing so abroad and representing our tiny island together.

On another note, even though we have just released a new full length album (which if you haven’t already checked out, shame on you!) we are already working on some new material. Dave, our guitarist and producer from Spine Splitter Records, is a riff-churning machine, and has already finished writing up a couple tracks. So expect some new material in the not too distant future.