Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abigor
- Album: Orkblut – The Retaliation
- Year of Release: 1995
- Country: Austria
- Label: Napalm
- Format: Jewelcase
- Catalogue Number: NPR 008
Continuing my love letter to mid 90s black metal, we come to Abigor’s Orkblut – The Retaliation. The band followed up their well-received debut, with this – not really an album per se, clocking in at just under 25 minutes, and comprising a mixture of fairly Verwϋstung-style black metal numbers alongside a collection of instrumentals and interludes. It marks something of a departure from its predecessor, which was definitely a collection of songs, whilst this needs to be listened to in its entirety, as a single piece of music. Abigor present Orkblut as a kind of concept album – the liner notes read: “the story of a warrior who remembers his pagan origins which inflame his heart. It shows his life from the day he rises, his feelings and his last battle, until his death and the severance of flesh and spirit”. This may not sound particularly original in this day and age (and indeed was ground ploughed by the likes of Manowar in the 1980s), but it was much more of a rarity in the 1995 black metal scene, as pagan/Viking metal (later to become massive) was very much in its infancy.
Sonically though, Orkblut has little in common with the folk metal hey-nonny-nonnyisms of the last decade or so, and represents a far more interesting mixture of the kind of vicious yet melodic black metal Abigor employed on their debut, mixed with the sort of material that Summoning would become known and revered for. This should come as little surprise as Abigor and Summoning share a frontman in the form of Silenius (he seemed almost ubiquitous in the Austrian BM scene at the time), who puts in a typically scathing vocal performance here. The whole enterprise kicks off with the kind of declarative opener that, if I’m honest, Emperor pull off a lot better, but it’s a suitably atmospheric starting point, with Silenius’ tortured howling in the background, accompanied by acoustic guitar. There is also an unusual yet effective use of a flute, but before it has a chance to get a bit too Manowar, the mighty black metal instrumental ‘Bloodsoaked Overture’ kicks in, jaggedly melodic and a clear step up in songwriting prowess from the debut. The central section is reminiscent of contemporaneous Norwegian bands (Ulver, Gehenna), and the drumming – much like on the debut – is refreshingly diverse, with a ‘war drum’ like refrain appearing sporadically throughout the release. Following a further keyboard interlude, ‘The Rising Of Our Tribe’ represents the first ‘proper’ black metal song, complete with requisite blast beats and snarling vocals.
This varied approach continues for the rest of the release, mixing the hateful with the melancholy or ambient. Of the former, ‘Severance’ is a particular highlight, starting with an almost thrash-like riff, but rapidly turning into the type of chaotic wall of sound black metal Abigor would perfect later on (complete with guitar solo!). The latter, with its mixture of keys, acoustic guitar and flute adds to the obscure and (cod) medieval atmosphere, but I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. This release was, in its own minor way, rather innovative and forward thinking for its time, and regardless of its lack of importance in the grander scheme of all things black metal, it remains a classic example of the amazing music that was being released in the mid 90s. It’s short, but 25 minutes of pure black metal greatness. Highly recommended.