Album Review: Abbath by Abbath is Abbatherrific
Let’s not kid ourselves: The late, great love-or-hate Christopher Lee was no slouch when it came to whipping up the bloodlust in his ‘roided-out orc army. He brought a tear to Brad Dourif’s browless eye, anyway, and whatever, the man was (hell, IS) metal as fuck, so good on him. That said, as I listen to the opening assault “To War!” from Abbath’s new solo(ish) venture, I realize that the crossbred baddies might have peeled Helm’s Deep like a rotten onion, made sweet berserker love to Aragorn and Theoden’s hind-holes, and gorged on Elijah Wood’s sister and Peter Jackson’s babies alike if some of the Orthanc execs had plugged in and sent them off in true Blashyrkh splendor.
That last reference deserves a little attention. In case you hadn’t heard or didn’t care, it seems that Norwegian black metal pioneers Immortal named their band a bit prematurely, as it turned out to be as mortal as any other band. More so than some, as the dismantling of Immortal’s classic core lineup was contentious, bitter and frankly disappointing for longtime fans. Horgh and Demonaz will soldier on under the name, but prime personality Abbath has fled (or been banished from) cold Blashyrkh to rise impenitent and formidable with a new band and an exciting batch of new songs.
Immortal fans, get stoked: Abbath is one hell of a ride, and very true to the music our man has built his name around. Battle metaphors abound, but in interviews Abbath expands on their figurative nature and how they refer to the struggles of everyday modern life as well. “Winterbane” takes up the banner from “To War!” for an armored sprint across a snowy field. “Ashes of the Damned” churns the killing ground and squeals with brass accents. It’s astonishing, really: Abbath’s ability to race forward, wholeheartedly black metal in pace and intent, while always leaving room for a melodic lead or tasty rhythmic departure proves the command these musicians have over their chosen approach. Songs bore on and burn out, painting the same hues on the same canvas, often more easily appreciated on the third or fourth spin than on the first.
“Root of the Mountain” is a bit of a red herring, crafted to sound like a perfect album closer with its restrained tempo and lush chords. Of course, “Endless” cracks open afterwards with a bestial blizzard that sinks its lusty teeth into all your soft parts. It’s a worthy finale that seals a powerful effort by a group of hardened metal veterans. If you live near a big U.S. music market town (or in Toronto), don’t miss these guys on stage this spring…