Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abigor
- Album: Supreme Immortal Art
- Year of Release: 1998
- Country: Austria
- Label: Napalm
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: NPR040
Before reviewing this, I had a quick look through the opinions on the Metal Archives website (often a useful cultural barometer for this type of music, even if it is infested with kvltists, and has yet to impose a sanctions policy for hate-speech). I was somewhat surprised to see that Supreme Immortal Art, Abigor’s 1998 utter masterpiece, has been seen as somewhat divisive. Surprised, because if you don’t think this is one of the high watermarks for the mid-to-late ‘90s black metal scene, you are frankly just plain wrong.
Reading some of those reviews has meant I am going to write something slightly different from my original plan… more of a case for the defence. But this is not the defence of something that is probably objectively rubbish, but I just happen to love (there are plenty of those, whether books, films, or records). This is the case for the defence of a record that I genuinely believe to be one of the finest examples of black metal ever recorded. I’m not exaggerating – I think it’s that good. At some point I should probably write a Top 40 for the genre, and this would certainly feature.
OK, where to start? Supreme Immortal Art is Abigor’s first proper stab at “symphonic black metal”. The obvious touchstone is Emperor, and their spirit is evoked often. Abigor have never been quite as accomplished as the Norwegians they clearly admire, but they’re not doing a terrible job of punting in that direction. Building on their earlier strengths, every song here has both complexity and melody, but – and crucially, I think this was what was lacking on their last couple of releases – there is an emotional depth and swoop to the composition. Sure, there’s rage and hate and all the usual stuff you expect from a black metal record, but there’s a grandiosity to proceedings that wasn’t present before.
Some comment has been made about the prevalence of keyboards, and the production. It is certainly true that the drums are lower in the mix than usual, and if I have a quibble this would be it. TT is one of black metal’s most inventive drummers, and for his efforts to be buried in the mix is something of a shame – a remaster would be well-worth listening to. But to criticise the album for being keyboard-driven is short-sighted (I’m being generous there; the “no keyboards” crowd can genuinely go fuck themselves). This was 1998, and many of the greatest black metal records of the time were using keyboards, as bands had realised that vocals/guitar/drums could be limiting (Abigor had abandoned the pretence of bass guitar a couple of releases ago). Supreme Immortal Art exists within the great pantheon of amazing releases around the same time from Emperor, Tartaros, Obtained Enslavement, Limbonic Art and others – and is better than most (Emperor, notwithstanding). Ben asked me whether I felt there were any stand-out tracks… I think this should be regarded as “a piece”, but if pushed, I guess favourites would be “Soil Of Souls” and “The Spirit Of Venus”, but I think listening to these tracks in isolation is a mistake – they are part of a much greater whole.
This is an album that builds on Abigor’s previously demonstrated ability to construct complex yet melodic compositions, while adding a symphonic aspect that takes this to another level of black metal excellence. I’m going with 90% purely because of my quibble about the drum production, but I really cannot recommend this more highly. If you haven’t heard Abigor before – start here.