Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abigail
- Album: The Early Black Years – 1992-1995
- Year of Release: 2007
- Country: Japan
- Label: Drakkar
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: DKCD043
Yasuyuki Suzuki and his project Abigail have been a perennial feature on the Japanese thrash/black metal scene since the early 90s, and in this sense have a kinship with that other great blackened thrash band Sabbat, although they’ve never received quite the same accolades and recognition as that outfit, and have certainly not had any of the same kind of western appreciation that the more experimental band Sigh has, for example. They have been confined to a journalistic camp that simply accepts that the Japanese have a different way of appreciating and appropriating western forms of making metal and punk music, which has resulted in some great, and some ill-judged (from a western perspective) recordings. Abigail (and to a slightly lesser extent Sabbat) fall into this latter category.
Release details first: this compilation gathers Abigail’s first two demos from 1992 and 1993 respectively, pre-production recordings of their Descending From A Blackened Sky EP (1994), a couple of random live recordings from 1992, and some rehearsals from the years 1992-1995. So something of a mixed bag all told.
For those familiar with Abigail’s later, thrashier work, this may come as something of a surprise being blacker, albeit just as filthy-sounding as the likes of Intercourse and Lust or Forever Street Metal Bitch. The band describes their music as “street metal”, but this being a sub-sub-sub genre that I’m not aware really exists, it primarily reminds me of the early likes of Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Bathory, maybe even (very) early Mayhem. The production is predictably and probably deliberately paper-thin, with drums and screaming vocals predominating. This is simplistic to the max as befits any band so blatantly worshipping at the altars of Venom and Thomas Gabriel Fischer. But it has a kind of OTT exuberance and energy that lift this above many western imitators of this style, which gives this a kind of buzz. There are real songs in here, and the tempo varies from early black metal ultra-thrash to doomier thudding, with melodic breaks spread throughout. BD Joyce used the term “gonzo” when reviewing one of their later recordings, and I actually think that’s not an inappropriate word here – the band clearly envision a world of bandanas, spiky wrist-bands, bullet-belts and metal shirts as de rigeur, and there’s something appealing about this juvenile, absurd, dedicatedly retro outlook on metal. The band are clearly not hiding their influences either, with a total of four covers – two Bathory, plus one each from Sodom and Bulldozer.
It’s difficult to try and highlight stand-out tracks, but the first two demos are more cohesive than the rest, and because of the nature of the collection, the production varies a fair bit. If you’re interested in Japanese extreme metal, or indeed just like the early proto-black metal sound of the aforementioned bands, this might be worth your while, although I’d recommend starting with their albums rather than a demo collection. This is a release for die-hards ultimately, but that’s no bad thing.