ABBATH – Abbath
Much can be said about Immortal and their influence in extreme metal. The first Immortal record released in 1992 is one of the cornerstones of the second wave of black metal and Norwegian black metal, and founding member/frontman Olve ‘Abbath Doom Occulta’ has long been recognized as an integral part of the genre as a whole.
After a long strung-out lawsuit and the split of Immortal early 2015, Abbath announced that he was writing new music to be released as his own project with a new lineup consisting of ex-Gorgoroth and ex-Audrey Horne bass player Tom ‘King ov Hell’ Visnes and Kevin ‘Creature’ Foley (Benighted and sessions for Sabaton, Sepultura, Decapitated etc) on drums. Per Valla of Vredehammer was recruited as lead guitarist, although Per and Kevin both quit on their own accord at the end of the year.
Now, I’m not a fan of ‘trve’ ‘kvlt’ raw black metal. Riffs that sound like it was recorded in a single take in a dark basement with an 8-bit recorder. Although the last Immortal release ‘All Shall Fall’ was well produced and generally a solid release, I was extremely apprehensive about the new Abbath album. One listen of the first single released, ‘Count The Dead’ changed all that.
The debut S/T release from Season of Mist records is a blistering exhibition of black metal done right. Grim, frostbitten and a chokehold on all you hold dear. From the first track ‘To War!’ to the album closer ‘Endless,’ Abbath shows that he, indeed, the grandmeister of black metal. His signature croaks over jagged thrashy riffs form a very trademarked sound – there’s a hint of subtle melody but you’d be hard pressed to notice it over the crushing drums and the barrage of riffs thrown at you. ‘To War!,’ ‘Winterbane’ and ‘Count the Dead’ are fast and straightforward; ‘Fenrir Hunts’ is a throwback to early Norwegian black metal with gravity blasts soaring screeches, while ‘Ocean of Wounds’ and ‘Root of the Mountain’ are mid-tempo sway-your-head-and-bang-your-head tracks. Not taking away from any of the tracks – they’re all fantastic but personally, I found that ‘Winterbane’ stands apart and is probably the best representation of what the album is; fast riffage, destructive drumming and a rather elegant acoustic guitar at the end of the track.
The crisp production is what really sells me on the record – everything is crystal clear, there’s no dark, dirty dungeon echo; it’s black metal for the modern age and I’m digging this. Is it too early to name the top contenders for ‘Album of the Year’ 2016?