Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abdullah
- Album: Abdullah
- Year of Release: 2000
- Country: USA
- Label: I Used To Fuck People Like You In Prison Records
- Format: Digipak CD
- Catalogue Number: PRISON 999-2
Abdullah’s debut full-length is a stratospheric bolt from virtually nowhere after their functional, but largely ignored, opening EP. I’ve seen some fairly variable reviews of this album on the internet, including Eduardo Rivadavia’s pretty indifferent take from Allmusic (and he’s generally no fool). But on this occasion I think he’s really quite wrong.
Where Rivadavia is right is that this is a blend of a bunch of styles, covering 70s hard rock, 80s doom metal, and 90s stoner rock. The overall vibe can only be described as fairly mellow. Even when things get heavy (doom metal heavy, not death metal heavy) the band are clearly taking their time, enjoying their own musical space. The obvious touchstone is of course Black Sabbath, but there are moments that absolutely invoke other heavyweights from across the spectrum, touching on guitar god solos, Vitus-style riffing (without the hardcore influence), almost grunge style vocals in places (recalling Alice in Chains), a Trouble-indebted commitment to thud, and an unescapable love of Acid Bath’s more melodic and less twisted moments.
Ex-Sloth man Jeff Shirilla, covering both vocals and drums, is revelatory. He might not display Dax Riggs’ vocal range, but his version of a US Ozzy without the apocalyptic histrionics is extraordinary. In another universe, he’d be fronting a way more commercially successful (and I guess sellable) band. But I’m glad he wasn’t because his performance here is simply stellar, and intelligent lyrics covering a range of areas familiar to doom metallers add to the excellence on display. Despite the varied texture, there is a consistency to Abdullah carried at least in large part from this stand-out vocal performance, comfortably covering the ground between the Sabbathy ‘Journey To The Orange Island’ (or maybe it’s Sheavy I’m thinking of, although they are themselves more Sabbath than Sabbath), the Lovecraft- and Trouble-influenced doom of ‘The Black Ones’, and the more balladic and acoustic closer ‘Lotus Eaters’.
The production throughout is immense, bringing to mind how those 70s classics might have sounded had they been recorded in the year 2000. Despite the retro nature of the band’s style, production clearly wasn’t part of that plan. But the feel of the 70s is all over this, and the band have clearly taken a stance of having moved on technologically, but not aesthetically. I do not mean this in a bad way – I love this record, and find it genuinely strange that it has not achieved wider appreciation. This is a celebration of good rock music, recorded and played well.
Maybe this isn’t heavy enough for most pure doom fans. Maybe it’s too heavy for those that think stoner rock means the Black Crowes or Reef. Well, if you’re in either of those camps, that’s your loss. This is a brilliant example of a somewhat niche genre entry that arguably should have been much larger, given what I reckon is genuine mainstream appeal.