Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abbath
- Album: Abbath
- Year of Release: 2016
- Country: Norway
- Label: Season of Mist
- Format: Digipack CD Boxset
- Catalogue Number: SOM 366B
Olve Eikemo (Abbath Doom Occulta) should need no introduction to black metal aficionados, being one half of the untouchable legacy left behind by Norwegian legends Immortal. After a publicly acrimonious split from long-time collaborator Demonaz, he’s set his stall out as a solo act, backed by a bunch of solid not-quite also-rans of the black metal scene (King, somewhat controversial ex-Gorgoroth bassist, and Kevin Foley aka Creature, ex of Benighted). I think I’m somewhat more charitable towards this album than BD Joyce is, but agree with his summation that this sounds like an album recorded too soon, whether in an attempt to beat Demonaz to releasing a new Immortal record, or just to get back out on the road performing those Immortal classics that he knows people really want to hear.
This is certainly not terrible though – far from it, in fact. The production is top-notch, which can either be a good or a bad thing when it comes to black metal records; in this case Abbath sounds thunderous, and the production allows this heavily riff-based record to truly shine. I’ve read some quibbles about the drum sound, but to my ear the drum sound perfectly matches the thick guitar tone. This should come as no surprise to listeners though, as Immortal albums since At the Heart of Winter have embraced modern production values, and no-one should be under any illusion that this is not a continuation of Abbath (the man)’s work with his previous band. Musically this stands as a continuation of the previous few Immortal albums, notably Sons of Northern Darkness and All Shall Fall, with largely mid-paced black/thrash riffing, interspersed with occasional bursts of (sometimes d-beat) pace to break up what could otherwise have become monotonous. You can’t get away from the impression that this is a collection of songs written to be played live, and I stress that that is not necessarily a criticism. This is classic festival fodder.
Opener ‘To War!’ is a fast and furious thrash number, as many earlier Immortal had begun, but there are moments of subtlety here… ‘Winterbane’ contains a clean break that cannot be accidentally reminiscent of Immortal’s anthem ‘Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)’. There are occasional uses of synth that might be otherwise incongruous, but somehow seem to work in the context of what Abbath has woven together here. ‘Count The Dead’ and in particular ‘Fenrir Hunts’ are vicious fists to the face, but the standout for me is ‘Root Of The Mountain’, which recalls the epic majesty of the best of Immortal’s back catalogue. Another touchstone throughout the album is Abbath’s sole black/heavy metal I record, Between Two Worlds, in which he straddled the thrashing blackness of old with classic rock touches from Motorhead, Deep Purple et al., although I sense none of the Rush-influenced progginess of the likes of ‘Antarctica’.
Individual performances – Abbath’s trademark croak is present in full force. He’s never demonstrated a great deal of range, but that’s not what you’re looking for; he sounds totally in command here. Abbath also handles the vast majority of guitars on this release, and continues to prove he is an expert at producing catchy, groovy and when necessary mournful or epic riffs. Creature on drums is a revelation; this is not overtly technical music, but he is clearly a powerhouse drummer, underpinning the varied pace of the record. I should also note there are some excellent guitar solos spotted throughout the album, provided by Ole Andre Farstad. King’s bass is somewhat buried in the mix, but this is hardly crucial to the sound.
Ultimately, if you are looking for a return to the older, colder sound of early Immortal albums, look elsewhere (Demonaz’s own Immortal album would be a good place to start). If you are looking for a solid, well-played, well-produced slab of later Immortal, this album is no slouch and well worth giving a spin.
A note on editions: I have the box set edition of this, which contains a pin badge, patch, and a rather fetching wrist band, which keeps my wrist warm. It also has two bonus cover tracks. One is of Judas Priest’s ‘Riding On The Wind’, which is surprisingly good, and makes sense in the context of what has come before, with Abbath embracing his trad-metal roots. The other is a cover of Immortal’s ‘Nebular Ravens Winter’, which means he’s… covering himself. OK. It’s fine, and I guess improves on the production issues associated with the Blizzard Beasts album, but sort of unnecessary and certainly doesn’t help if he’s trying to distance himself as a solo artist from the parent band, but maybe that’s precisely the point.