Abigor – Opus IV

Author – Brendan Blake

Abigor – Opus IV
  • Artist: Abigor
  • Album: Opus IV
  • Year of Release: 1996
  • Country: Austria
  • Label: Napalm
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: NPR 020

OK, the first thing to note about this album is that is not in fact an album – it’s two EPs recorded in separate sessions, firstly Horns Lurk Beyond The Stars (recorded November and December 1995), and Blut Aus Aeonen (recorded May 1996). Although there are similarities in style between both halves of the album, and indeed to some of their previous work, there is a significant difference in the quality of the production, and I guess my major criticism of Opus IV as an “album” is this lack of consistency. I think it also suffers by comparison with the two albums bookending it – the self-assured Nachthymnen and the absolute masterpiece that is Supreme Immortal Art. Having said that, I still think this is brilliant, albeit patchy.

‘Horns Beneath The Stars’ is genuinely fantastic – leaving behind the occasionally slightly twee medievalisms of some of Abigor’s earlier output, this takes on an eerier, more otherworldly tone. Abigor haven’t abandoned melody – it’s still very much in there, but the dissonance is greater; opener ‘Crimson Horizons And Ashen Skies’ starts with a blastbeat and a scream, and is largely pedal-to-the-metal until the end, despite the odd keyboard or flute addition. What is maintained from (in particular) Nachthymnen is the sheer density of riffs and drum patterns throughout the entire EP. And like that prior work, this abundance of ideas works incredibly effectively, never descending into outright chaos, but often teetering on the brink. There is also a subtlety to this – not a word you’d often use with a relatively raw black metal band. Keys, acoustic guitars and flute are used sparingly but effectively. Silenius manages a varied vocal approach, incorporating a traditional black metal rasp, a pained shouting style, and more sinister near-spoken word (too often this sounds just plain cheesy, but here it works). At its best, this reminds of classic Emperor, although without the sheer grandeur and pomp of Ihsahn et al., but I don’t make that comparison lightly.

The second half, ‘Blut Aus Aeonen’, is, by comparison, somewhat of a letdown. That’s not to say that it’s bad, but it feels like something of a regressive step back to the likes of Orkblut. Now, I really loved that release, and I like this, but for me it just doesn’t have the quality of “Side A”. There is a notable dip in the production quality, sounding altogether muddier than the first four tracks. Production is often not something to moan about when it comes to black metal, but the disparity is somewhat jarring. Nonetheless, there is plenty to admire, with the usual mass of convoluted riffing, varied drum patterns, and the now to be expected acoustic guitar, flute and keyboard interludes. Overall? It’s a great Abigor record, and definitely a must for fans. It’s not their best, but to label this less than ‘excellent’ seems churlish. It is an interesting bridging album between the mystical Nachthymnen and the more transcendent Supreme Immortal Art. Highly recommended, and proof that Abigor have at this stage barely put a foot wrong.

Score: 84%