This ABBATH article was written by Adam Mallaby, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Macon Oxley.
It has been quite a while since new material emerged from the inner workings of ABBATH. Nothing since 2009’s ‘All Shall Fall’, whilst he was still with the now-legendary Immortal, working alongside Demonaz and Horgh. However, 2015 saw that relationship disintegrate, resulting in Abbath jumping ship to form his eponymous band with ex-Gorgoroth/God Seed bassist, King Ov Hell (yes, that is his stage name). ‘Abbath’ marks the group’s first release, kicking off 2016 with a dark tinge to great anticipation. After all, Immortal were one of the most ear-bludgeoning bands to emerge from the Norwegian black metal scene in the 1990s, with Abbath being a significant instigator of the chaotic, frostbitten onslaught that Immortal brought with them from the artic mountains.
ABBATH’s new album brings a more diluted taste to the tongue of black metal veterans, with the heavy metal roots seeping through the frozen cracks of earlier works. The song structures have taken a more direct approach, providing a perhaps more listenable journey through what many consider to be a genre that is almost completely inaccessible to new ears. For more experienced listeners it may seem like a step backwards, being accustomed to the hellish beauty of the past.
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The opening track ‘To War!’ defines the blueprint for the album: shredding guitars drowned in reverb backed by a thunderous barrage of drums and the steady hand of the bassline, all topped off with Abbath’s signature hoarse vocals. The album marches onward, showing no mercy with ‘Winterbane’ and ‘Count the Dead’. Both hit home as some of the highly satisfying elements of this album, with their refreshingly straightforward approach underneath the black metal storms. For those looking for the unrelenting aggression that characterises this infamous genre, ‘Fenrir Hunts’ and ‘Ashes of the Damned’ provide blast beats galore from now ex-drummer Creature.
‘Abbath’ is by no means groundbreaking. The scaffolding that holds this album together are fairly unoriginal at times, with the arpeggiated sections littered throughout being a signature of Abbath’s Immortal past, and the lyrics bringing the same Pagan feel to them as before. The audio mix is sometimes a mess, with the guitars being too quiet to provide any heavy damage. Part of what separated Immortal from the pack was their distinct guitar sound: clear yet mushy at the forefront of battle with their unorthodox chords and whirling tremolo. With ‘Abbath’, sometimes the guitar gets lost within its own sound. For newer fans, though, this album will likely stand as the gateway into a world of cold and ice for those not yet familiar or attuned to the ferocious nature of Emperor or Darkthrone. It is definitely a worthy album for veterans, as well – just perhaps not quite what they were expecting at times.
‘Abbath’ is out now via Season Of Mist.