Abdullah – Snake Lore

Author: Brendan Blake

Abdullah – Snake Lore
  • Artist: Abdullah
  • Album: Snake Lore
  • Year of Release: 1999
  • Country: USA
  • Label: Rage Of Achilles
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: ILIAD002

Taking a bit of break from the Abigor back catalogue and reaching backwards alphabetically to the debut EP from US band Abdullah…a band recommended to me by David Tyler (someone whose opinion is not to be taken lightly), Abdullah’s first is fine but little to write home about. Touted as an EP, this may as well be regarded as an album at face value. The packaging is certainly well put together, but belies the problem with much mid-90s/20s stoner/doom metal. I envisage seeing Abdullah at my old stomping ground of The Greyhound in Beeston, Nottingham or even The Portland Arms in Cambridge, and thinking this was an up-and-coming band, harking back to past masters like Black Sabbath (obviously), Candlemass (later-period), Solitude Aeturnus (again, obviously), but not really bringing anything new to the table. I get a significant whiff of Acid Bath as well, but you’d be better just buying their albums instead (although that is basically something that everyone with any interest in intelligent heavy metal should do anyway).

I would totally spend some time sitting and listening to this in the correct venue, but ultimately this is ultra-generic. Perfectly well played and performed but offering little substance or sticking power. Fans of the aforementioned doom impresarios will find much to love here, and the band would achieve greater heights latterly, but this is at best a footnote in a well-trodden furrow of stoner metal. Buy their debut instead.

Score: 50%

Abigor – In Memory…

Author: Brendan Blake

Abigor – In Memory…
  • Artist: Abigor
  • Album: In Memory
  • Year of Release: 2000
  • Country: Austria
  • Label: Napalm
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: NPR082

With all due respect to the band and our readership, I don’t intend to spend a great amount of time or word count on this, an EP consisting of two cover versions previously released on tribute albums to greater bands, and three largely unnecessary re-recordings of earlier recordings of Abigor originals. This is by no means bad, but it is pretty much the definition of filler.

Presumably hoping to capitalise on the one-two success of Supreme Immortal Art and Channeling The Quintessence of Satan (a brace of essential late 90s black metal records if ever I heard them), Napalm Records clearly wanted some kind of stop-gap before 2001’s Satanized was released. Five tracks in 25 minutes, all of which had been released elsewhere in some format or other.

First up is a cover of German act Kreator’s classic ‘Terrible Certainty’ (from the similarly titled album, 1987), originally released on the Dwell Records Under The Guillotine: A Tribute to Kreator album (2001). It’s a faithful, suitably brutal run-through of an underground standard, adding nothing, but not disrespecting the original or embarrassing the band themselves by comparison. Second is a cover of Slayer’s ‘Crionics’ (the original is from Slayer’s debut Show No Mercy, 1983), taken again from a Dwell tribute record – this time Gateway To Hell 2: A Tribute to Slayer (2000). Interesting I guess for Thurisaz’ effort at clean vocals alongside his usual snarl, but once again a basically straight cover that is functional, but no better than you’d get from your average Slayer tribute act.

There are then three re-recordings, none of which set my world on fire. Firstly we have ‘Shadowlord’, which actually goes back to Abigor’s Ash Nazgh… demo from 1993. This isn’t previously unreleased either, having been on the Napalm Records compilation With Us Or Without Us (1995). Obviously, there’s an improvement in production and the band are tighter, and this is probably the most interesting thing on this somewhat lacklustre EP (the fact Silenius is on vocals for this helps, even if the vocal production is a bit uneven), but unless you are part of the “demo days of any band were better” crowd, it’s hard to get past the fact the Abigor had long ago moved past this stuff.

The final two tracks consist of a re-recording of ‘Crimson Horizons’ from the Opus IV album – the main problem I had with that album was the production quality, and this is a 4 track rehearsal, so just why? – and an instrumental re-recording of ‘Verwϋstung’ from their 1993 debut. This latter track was previously available on the Apokalypse EP. This isn’t terrible, but utterly pointless and I suspect a cynical way to get idiot completists to hand over money for material they already own. Oh wait, that would be me then.

Score: 55%

(low score reflects the fundamentally inessential nature of a release of this kind, rather than the quality of the material found within)

Abigail Williams – Agharta

Author: Brendan Blake

Abigail Williams – Agharta
  • Artist: Abigail Williams
  • Album: Agharta
  • Year of Release: 2010
  • Country: USA
  • Label: Candlelight
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: CANDLE292CDSE

A stop-gap release, put out in the wake of their extensive 2009 US tour, initially released digitally, but subsequently as a bonus disc with their reasonably well-acclaimed In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns. This is inevitably something of an inessential addition to what is arguably an inessential back catalogue of music, but that is not to say there is nothing of interest here.

Opener ‘I Am (God)’ is catchy enough, and almost a retrograde step from the band’s debut. Having leaned so heavily in the direction of Scandinavian symphonic black, it’s actually slightly refreshing that the band have attempted to repossess some of that thrashing melodic death metal of their first EP. Opting out of the standard pseudo-orchestral intro and launching into something vaguely reminiscent of mid-period Dissection, ‘I Am (God)’ devolves into a somewhat more chugging thrash-fest that I’m sure some will argue is a call-back to their metalcore roots, but in reality would not sound out of place on any modern thrash record. It all ends on a keyboard-driven segment of which Dimmu Borgir or Arcturus would be proud.

‘In Death Comes The Great Silence’ is closer to that cold Nordic sound of the debut, almost recalling Bathory at their most majestic in the closing minutes, but that is not to say anything on here is of anywhere near that calibre, reinforcing the view that Abigail Williams are a competent but resolutely third-tier black metal act. ‘Waiting For The Rain’ is a totally inconsequential weather-sound interlude with further Bathory acoustics for “atmosphere”, briefly making you forget that this isn’t a US band, and once again evoking the likes of British bands such as Cradle Of Filth. ‘Infernal Divide’ actually to me begins (briefly) with a Burzum vibe, before resorting to more Mayhem worship in the verse. It’s certainly not an unpleasant listen but hugely derivative of much greater bands, and seems to be incapable of deciding what it wants to be.

Unlike the interesting fusion of styles found on the Legend EP, the diversity on display here actually just suggests a lack of individual character. There’s plenty to like about this, but not to love, and as an EP is destined for the great trash-heap of “yeah, it was alright” metal EPs that no-one will remember in x number of years.

A note on editions: I have this as a bonus disc on the In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns album. There is a bonus video track of ‘Into The Ashes’, available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBclCnzbQUM. It’s a classically rubbish extreme metal video that would have been scoffed at in the mid-90s, but in 2010 is kind of inexcusable. Not rubbish to a Hecate Enthroned or Ancient standard, but hey, what is?

Score: 65%