Written by: AP on 01/12/2016 14:25:04

In 2014, Abbath Doom Occulta, the alter ego of Norwegian musician Olve Eikemo, whose exploits as the frontman of Immortal has earned him a quasi-legendary reputation, became embroiled in a legal dispute with his bandmates, Demonaz Doom Occulta (Harald Nævdal), Horgh (Reidar Horghagen) and Apollyon (Ole Jørgen Moe) over rights to the Immortal trademark. As a result, he decreed the band dissolved and, allegedly, took what music had already been written for a ninth studio album, with the intent of using it as the foundation for his solo début, “Abbath”. On the basis of the album, there seems to be at least some truth to the allegations; its sound, tone and style are so similar to Immortal’s later repertoire (2009’s “All Shall Fall” in particular) that “Abbath” might as well be an Immortal record.

Disciples of the Norwegian black metal titans should take kindly to Abbath, thus — even in light of the whisperings that said LP is set to arrive next year. The music may not be set in the fictional universe of Blashyrkh, but with the aid of Kevin ‘Creature’ Foley (formerly of Benighted) and Tom Cato Visnes aka. ‘King ov Hell’ (of Jotunspor) on bass guitar, Abbath unabashedly continues from where he left off, slinging avalanches of distinctly “All Shall Fall”-esque, apocalyptic bombast. Abbath was never shy to embrace self-irony, nor is he willing to compromise on his vision in order to satisfy some confused notion of ‘trveness’ that black metal purists like to impose on the genre. Grandiose production, sweeping melodies and orchestral nuances are just as integral to “Abbath”’s style as the icy tone and militaristic rhythm at the base of each song — and by flicking between cascades of grisly power-chords and thundering blastbeats, and glorious metal’n’roll played in major key and laced with classic heavy metal solos, tracks like “To War!” and “Winterbane” have no trouble etching a mark into the bedrock of your memory.

Unlike traditionalistic black metal, Abbath’s music feels like it was written tongue-firmly-in-cheek. As antithetical to the genre’s philosophy as it seems, the likes of “Ashes of the Damned” and especially “Count the Dead” betray a band of light-hearted musicians whose view on conventions is pretty relaxed, and who were not afraid to have fun, writing them. Beneath the gnarly growls and menacing tone lives an assortment of pop sensibilities that keep the music from disintegrating into a blur of extremity: the riffs sound like riffs — not static; the rhythm section is diverse — not a constant, rumbling mudslide; and the song dynamics are constantly shifting to keep the listener on his toes. Only “Fenrir Hunts” and “Endless” utilise a more typical black metal style, but where the latter delivers an entirely forgettable finale to the record, the former’s adoption of a thrashy groove to force its malevolence home quickly establishes it as one of the standout pieces of the album.

Some critics have voiced their disdain for “Abbath”’s lack of ‘grimness’, which in fairness is isolated into the insipidly trudging “Root of the Mountain” and then never seen again. But honestly, it is precisely the band’s refusal to conform to an elitist’s idea of what black metal should sound like that makes the record such an unexpectedly thrilling listen. Indeed, the fact that Abbath dares depart from the formulaic and unleash his own vision of what black metal could sound like earns nothing but applause from me. The presence of three unremarkable picks in “Ocean of Wounds”, “Root of the Mountain” and “Endless” might hinder the band’s quest for majesty, but the other five still suffice to make “Abbath” one of the most striking extreme metal releases of 2016.

Download: To War!, Winterbane, Count the Dead, Fenrir Hunts
For the fans of: Bathory, Demonaz, Immortal
Listen: Facebook

Release date 22.01.2016
Season of Mist

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