Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abigail Williams
- Album: Legend
- Year of Release: 2006
- Country: USA
- Label: Candlelight
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: CANDLE432CD Disc 1
I’m dimly aware that this band attracts a certain amount of scorn and derision on various internet forums (dimly aware, as I avoid those sorts of places because of the insufferable so-called purists that either police or troll them). Apparently the major complaint is their origin within the “metalcore” scene of the early 2000s. I’ve long had a problem with the term metalcore being used, both by journalists and internet pundits as a generic derogatory term – metalcore to me includes fantastic works by the likes of Agnostic Front and Cro-Mags in the 1980s, through to truly groundbreaking albums from Converge, Earth Crisis, Vision Of Disorder et al. in the mid ‘90s. The use of the term as a pejorative seems to refer to the likes of Killswitch Engage and Trivium (both of which are perfectly decent thrash/groove metal bands, with some added melodic singing). I don’t hear a great deal of hardcore punk in any of these bands, but maybe that’s just me. And don’t even get me started on the risible use of the term “mallcore” by the self-proclaimed scene police.
Why was that particular rant relevant to this release? Abigail Williams (named after one of the primary accusers in the Salem witch trials, and made famous to most high school students through Arthur’s Miller’s play The Crucible) were formed by one Ken Bergeron (latterly calling himself Sorceron; OK), who had played in a number of hardcore and metal bands prior to this. And that “metalcore” influence is certainly still present in this, his first Abigail Williams release. But the band is bucking a North American trend here by leaning over the pond and borrowing more heavily from the melodic death metal of At The Gates, the symphonic black metal of Dimmu Borgir, and most prevalently, UK-based gothic extremists Cradle Of Filth, a band for whom I will always have a deep and abiding teenage love.
Several tracks are re-purposed (and re-titled) from their demo days, and present a more-than-decent 20 minutes of aggressive, occasionally grandiose blackened death metal, with Dani Filth-esque screeches, mixed up with some lower-pitched death growling, and some Trivium-style melodic moments. The latter, which have attracted negative attention in particular, are fine for what they are and are noticeably absent from later releases. There is a fairly heavy use of keyboards, which add a degree of pomposity to proceedings and are certainly not as well integrated as the greatest examples of this style, but any band that invokes the spirit of Ihsahn of Emperor as frequently as they do cannot be wholly heading in the wrong direction. Sure there are metalcore breakdowns, but you know what, so did At The Gates and Suffocation, and that is not enough to write a band off. In this case, they work perfectly well, creating an interesting melange of US and European influences that this reviewer actually finds very palatable.
Screw the haters. This is good example of mid-2000s US symphonic black metal, with some added influences that at the time set them aside from the rest of the ATG-worshipping pack. Weirdly I actually find this more interesting as a release than some of their later, more typical records. But nice to see a young band playing with a variety of influences in an area that was becoming increasingly formulaic at the time.
A note on editions: I picked up the Candlelight 4CD From Legend To Becoming box set, of which this comprises the first disc; I’m reviewing them separately because they represent a significant evolution of the band’s sound over time.