Abigor – Channeling The Quintessence Of Satan

Author: Brendan Blake

Abigor – Channeling The Quintessence Of Satan
  • 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.

Score: 88%

Abigor – Apokalypse

Author: Brendan Blake

Abigor – Apokalypse
  • Artist: Abigor
  • Album: Apokalypse
  • Year of Release: 1997
  • Country: Austria
  • Label: Napalm
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: NPR 027

After some years of being quietly at the progressive edge of mid-90s black metal (there weren’t too many black metal bands regularly employing a flautist at the time, or indeed now), Abigor decided to release the somewhat curious Apokalypse EP. The liner notes suggest it was “produced and mixed in a few hours… for ultimate raw apocalyptic Black Metal listening pleasure exclusively”. At this stage in their career, Abigor were known to fans for the variety ever-present in their song-writing, while still being firmly within a genre at the time mostly known for its traditionalism (No Mosh! No Core! No Trends! No Fun!) – although around about 1997, all of that was about to change. In stark contrast to the wave of experimentation that was about occur, it seems Abigor had something they needed to get out of their system.

At under 18 minutes in length, Apokalypse comes across as nothing more than a paean to the Scandinavian black metal scene, particularly the raw, stripped down “true” black metal of Darkthrone. The near-ubiquitous blast beats open ‘Celestial’ and barely let-up until the end of the EP, showcasing none of TT’s usual flair, although that’s not intrinsically a criticism. Riffing occasionally shows elements of the melody associated with most prior Abigor releases, but is much more redolent of the tremolo-picked works from the original Peaceville Darkthrone records. There is some variation in the vocals – Silenius is usually quite distinctive, but here is either consciously or unconsciously channelling the likes of Aldrahn (Dødheimsgard) and occasionally even Attila Csihar.

This is a frustrating release. It’s certainly passable, even good, but ultimately derivative, and that’s a thing you never want to say about an Abigor release. There’s a palpable sense of hatred and rage here, and that raises this above the generic work of lesser bands, and a sub-par release from Abigor is still better than most black metal bands can ever possibly aspire to. But it is also forgettable, particularly when placed among the glittering jewels of the rest of the early Abigor discography. And at under 18 minutes in length becomes a curio of interest to die-hard fans only.

Score: 70%

Abigor – Verwüstung / Invoke The Dark Age

Author: Brendan Blake

Abigor – Verwüstung / Invoke The Dark Age
  • Artist: Abigor
  • Album: Verwüstung / Invoke The Dark Age
  • Year of Release: 1994
  • Country: Austria
  • Label: Napalm
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: NPR 005

I like to think that over the years I have grown as a person, and part of that is musically – my taste has broadened immeasurably, and I look back at my previously narrow-minded views with a significant sense of embarrassment. Nonetheless, even now, revisiting early 90s black metal is a trip to my happy place, reminding me of why I fell in love with this music in the first place. And so it is with the first album from Austrian black metal act Abigor.

Released in 1994, most of the black metal listening public were heavily focused on what was going on in Scandinavia (with good reason), and as such quite a number of genre near-classics were and are often overlooked in favour of the more high-profile Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone, Emperor et al. I remember reading about the Austrian Black Metal Syndicate at some point in the mid-90s, formed apparently in response to the Norwegian Black Metal Circle, and consisting of the likes of Golden Dawn, Summoning, Pazazu, Vuzem (later Hollenthon)… and Abigor. Many of the original Syndicate are long-since gone, but it seems that Abigor are still going strong. Their debut, Verwϋstung / Invoke The Dark Age, while not their greatest album, remains an outstandingly strong opener in what has been a lengthy discography of ‘true’, but not boringly reductionist, black metal.

After a series of demos and promos of varying quality, both production- and songwriting-wise, Abigor made the decision to a) replace their vocalist (Tharen a.k.a. Rune is out, Silenius is in), and b) base their debut around re-recorded and re-worked demo tracks, with the addition of a couple of ambient keyboard interludes, courtesy of (oddly) Rune. The first thing to note is that, in comparison with their demo material, the sound is vastly improved. Black metal often favours a deliberately raw production, and this is certainly jagged, but unlike some of their contemporaries this is pretty crystal, albeit with the de rigeur near total lack of bass. Secondly, Silenius’ vocals are vastly superior to the demo takes by Rune, being higher-pitched and displaying a far greater breadth of emotion, even if that breadth extends only from hatred to despair and sorrow.

Abigor often get lumped in as one of those bands jumping on the Norsk bandwagon, but I think this is wholly unfair – this is a melodic, diverse, and thought-out record that shows a remarkable degree of individual personality for a debut album from a supposed second-tier outfit. Use of keyboards, acoustic guitar, subtle variation in vocal styles, and a genuinely varied drum performance from T.T. are welcomed, and make this stand out from what was to rapidly become a very overcrowded pack.

You know when a black metal album has really worked as a collection of songs and left its mark when individual tracks stand out in and of themselves, rather than them merging into a morass in your memory as soon as you’ve turned the record off (obviously some records are aiming for this effect; this is not one of them). In this case, Verwϋstung succeeds, offering a number of black metal not-quite-classics in the form of ‘Kingdom Of Darkness’ (with its Seventh Seal-sampling opening), the near doomy parts of ‘Eye To Eye At Armageddon’ and particularly ‘In Sin’, and genuine contender, ‘Weeping Midwintertears’.

Abigor would go on to create bigger and better things – including at least two bona fide black metal classics – but this is an underrated and confident debut from a band that really deserve more of your attention than you have given them to date.

Score: 82%