Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abigor
- Album: Channeling The Quintessence Of Satan
- Year of Release: 1999
- Country: Austria
- Label: Napalm
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: NPR062
I thought Abigor’s previous album, Supreme Immortal Art, was close to perfect – a bombastic, baroque, swirling chaos of a black metal album that managed to stay just about the right side of falling over the edge into unformulated noise. It managed to maintain a balance between complexity, experimentation, grandeur, and quality songwriting, and remains a high watermark for “symphonic black metal”. A year later they delivered Channeling The Quintessence Of Satan, which, although a very different beast to its predecessor, represents for me the second of Abigor’s two truly great black metal records. After this I felt there was a slow decline in quality from the band, but around 1998-1999 they could do no wrong.
There is a significant line-up change – versatile frontman Silenius had left to concentrate on other projects (ambient black metal band Summoning, and martial industrial act Kreuzweg Ost), and was replaced by Heidenreich vocalist Thurisaz. Thurisaz is clearly less varied in his approach, but with the stylistic changes the band has made this isn’t a criticism – his rasp is a typical reverbed black metal one, contributing more to the percussion than to the overall feelings evoked by the album. The major change is just how metallic this feels. That might sound like a slightly odd thing to say, reviewing a black metal album, but hear me out – go listen to Supreme Immortal Art with all its orchestral touches and arrangements, and then listen to this straight afterwards. There is still much complexity here, but this is an altogether more brutal affair. The production has been beefed up significantly from previous releases, with the guitar and drum sound very much to the fore (the vocals are quite low in the mix compared to their previous output). There is very much a whiff of Abigor’s Apokalypse EP about this, but (and I doubt the band would appreciate the comparison) there are also similarities on occasion to both the early 90s Swedish melodic death and black metal scenes.
The drumming – as usual – is phenomenal, although less varied than some other Abigor releases I have reviewed. The percentage of blastbeating is higher than previously, which adds to the record’s intensity, rarely but effectively reducing the tempo to provide slower, more portentous moments. Guitars retain some of the tremolo-picked riffing from Apokalypse, but this time rather than recalling classic period Darkthrone remind more an unholy mixture of classic Emperor and Dissection. Keyboards play no part this time round, although samples of pseudo-industrial noise and strings occasionally punctuate the otherwise straightforwardly black metal assault.
I want to be clear – I think this is an utterly brilliant black metal record; perhaps not quite of the standard of Supreme Immortal Art, but certainly an excellent example of how a quality black metal album can be produced, encompassing both complexity and brutality. Despite their differences, this and Supreme Immortal Art will ultimately be Abigor’s long-standing legacy within the black metal scene. The band themselves felt there were some issues with arrangements and production values (hence their attempt to re-record / re-arrange it later on; something for another review), but once again I feel this is near perfect. I miss Silenius’ vocal versatility, but I admire the band’s continued commitment to variation and progression from record to record. Go listen and be impressed.