Author: Brendan Blake
- Artist: Abdullah
- Album: Graveyard Poetry
- Year of Release: 2002
- Country: USA
- Label: MeteorCity
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: MCY026
Album number 2 from US hard rock/doom metal apologists Abdullah. I was really taken by their debut but am left somewhat cold by their sophomore full-length. I’m going to try and put my finger on exactly what it is that I think is lacking from this release as, on the face of it, it has all of the components of a fantastic record.
Broadly speaking, this seems to be business as usual. It is a well-played, well-produced slab of hard rock-inflected doom metal (or should that be doom metal-inflected hard rock?), with solid performances from all quarters. Jeff Shirilla’s vocals remain the centrepiece of the action, still reminding me of the clean vocals of Dax Riggs of Acid Bath rather than Ozzy Osbourne, and he dominates the sound with a melodic sense that harkens back to both the 70s and 80s originators of stoner/doom (Sabbath obviously, Vitus, Trouble) and their bastard children in the grunge generation (Alice in Chains and Soundgarden in particular). There is an occasional use of vocal effects, as well as some swirling noise that suggests that Hawkwind have been part of their audio diet during the time of writing.
After an inconsequential intro, opener ‘Black Helicopters’ is strong, with a noticeably upbeat tempo, and this is sporadically returned to throughout the running time, preventing this from degenerating into the fuggy, miasmic torpor of the worst of stoner metal. Lyrics are intelligent, and songs are in the moment catchy. There are even some welcome nods to the NWOBHM (I’m thinking Diamond Head and even Angel Witch, rather than Maiden), and some really old school rock nods to the likes of ZZ Top, all of which means this is a perfectly entertaining listen. For me the highlights of the album are ‘A Dark But Shining Sun’, ‘The Whimper Of Whipped Dogs’, ‘Deprogrammed’, and ‘Pantheistic’ – noticeably front-loaded on the album, suggesting that even the band knew their best tracks should be in the first half of the album.
So why do I not love this more?
I think this is a classic case of, “It’s not you, it’s me.” If you are an aficionado of the band or indeed the genre, this is well worth a listen. There is even perhaps an argument to be made that at the time Vitus and Trouble weren’t releasing consistently great albums, and hence this is a decent substitute – I stress that I mean the word argument, as I don’t agree (about Vitus at any rate; Trouble hadn’t released an album for seven years). At the time, doom and stoner metal had splintered and experimented in so many fascinating ways, ranging from the ultra-orthodox “true doom” camp, through funeral doom, drone, psychedelia, the stoner/desert rock crowd and borderline pop/hard rock. For me, after a brilliant debut, this is a disappointment and fairly middle of the road. It looks back lovingly – a decent show, but ultimately fairly bland. A pity.