Written by: RUB on 04/10/2019 10:21:41

Opinions about the man behind Abbath are many — especially after he allegedly stole the material that had been written for what was supposed to be the ninth Immortal record, and released it under his own moniker instead. The resemblance between that self-titled effort and the last Immortal album to feature Abbath, “All Shall Fall”, is uncanny to say the least, so it is completely understandable that many still believe the accusations. Since then, however, Immortal have moved on with their own beast of a release in “Northern Chaos Gods”, and so has Abbath. Three years have in fact passed, and the Norwegian black metal heavyweight is back with his sophomore album “Outstrider”.

The opener “Calm in Ire (of Hurricane)” is a strong contestant for the best track on the album. You instantly recognise the snarled growls and harsh vocals of frontman Abbath, while the instrumentation delivers fast-paced black metal, with plenty of melodies, blazing riffs, pounding drums, and a crisp production. One gets the same Immortal-feeling as with “All Shall Fall”, and you can just see Abbath & co. playing this track on top of a cold, windblown and freezing mountain as well. It’s grandiose, it’s majestic, and frankly it’s close to being an epic in its own right, which is of course helped tremendously by the production.

The gritty perception that I at least have of Abbath, both in visual and audible terms, continues on the next track “Bridge of Spasms”. Just like on the third song, “The Artifex”, it is the unpolished and dirty nature of Abbath’s vocals that breathes life into the songs, and although they may not be the most original pieces of music in the genre, they still get the job done. The style sort of reminds me of Motörhead if they had played black metal, which is quite ironic, since Abbath runs his own Motörhead cover band Bömbers. Luckily, there are still some songs that both contain this dirty and gritty vocal sound and still also manage to stand out as highlights. “Harvest Pyre” is one of these tracks, and along with the aforementioned “Calm in Ire (of Hurricane) as well as the title track, it counts among the best picks on “Outstrider”, granted that you want Abbath to do things the way they were done when he was still a member of Immortal. Whether it’s these classic, retrospective antics that do it for me with these songs, I’m not sure, but the record just sounds so majestic, while Abbath’s snarly growls give it that raw, yet completely decipherable character that I’ve always liked about the bass-wielding vocalist.

A final song I would like to point out is “Land of Khem”, which, with its strange offbeat rhythm and rushed vocals, sounds quite messy and therefore very fitting to the feeling mentioned before, and the perception I have of Abbath in general. This all leads up to a massive and very headbangable segment just shy of the 02:15 mark, and it gets my head banging uncontrollably every time. A song like this is — to me at least — is very unlike Abbath, and one can only hope on its basis that he might start to develop and evolve his own brand of black metal even further, instead of restricting himself to being viewed as Immortal 2.0.

So, is this a step up from the début album or a step down? The truth is that it’s actually neither. In many ways, it reminds me of the duo’s first release — and that’s actually a good thing in that the predecessor was an extremely solid work of black metal and contained some genuine bangers. What you won’t find here, however, is a lot of new and groundbreaking stuff, because Abbath still chooses to stay true to his origins, in spite of this newer and perhaps more crisp style of black metal he produces nowadays. Luckily, that’s definitely a plus in my book.

Download: Harvest Pyre, Calm in Ire (of Hurricane), Land of Khem, Outstrider, Bridge of Spasms
For the fans of: Demonaz, Immortal, Inquisition
Listen: Facebook

Release date 05.07.2019
Season of Mist

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