Abigor – Fractal Possession

Author: Brendan Blake

Abigor – Fractal Possession
  • Artist: Abigor
  • Album: Fractal Possession
  • Year of Release: 2007
  • Country: Austria
  • Label: End All Life
  • Format: Digibook CD
  • Catalogue Number: EAL 052

Abigor mainstay P.K. returns after a six year absence (since 2001’s somewhat lukewarmly-received Satanized), re-recruiting drummer T.T. and new vocalist A.R. for 2007’s Fractal Possession. Abigor are quite rightly held in the highest regard within the pantheon of black metal artists, in large part because of their incredible mid- to late-90s output. This took the core backbone of early 90s Norwegian black metal, with a faintly “medieval” twist, but never felt like a direct lift of greater bands, owing to their prodigious talent and almost ADHD approach to song-writing that I have described previously as “chaos black”. Understandably there were huge expectations when a new album was announced, with many fans yearning for a return to the early Satyricon- and Emperor-influenced sounds of yesteryear, rather than Satanized’s more futuristic take on the genre. However, pandering to the kvltist fanbase has never been what Abigor are about.

The first thing to say about Fractal Possession is that it is really, really good. The second thing to say is that, despite the obvious quality on display, it is hard not to feel that Abigor are a little bit late to a party that peaked some years previously. Fractal Possession fits firmly within the Moonfoggery of mid-period Satyricon, Dødheimsgard, Thorns et al. and even to an extent Mayhem’s Grand Declaration Of War (although it is not as daring as the latter). The album kicks off with a vaguely industrial opener (‘Warning’), all robotic voices and radio sounds, which sets the scene for much of the rest of the album – in fact the subtle use of electronics, samples and keys is a real strength of the album. Abigor have never been shy of a good sample or keyword line, but this time they are used differently, creating a colder, more mechanical sound in keeping with the band’s new lyrical stance – still blasphemous and in praise of Satan but now with a technological spin (stand-out track ‘3D Blasphemy’ references the “biomechanical Antichrist”). Again, there is clear influence from the likes of Mysticum and Aborym here, although Abigor embrace industrial to nowhere near the same extent as either, using those influences as flavour more than an outright genre-shift – this is still very clearly black metal, despite its experimentation.

New vocalist A.R. puts in a solid performance – his slightly lower-pitched black metal rasp (in comparison to Silenius’ for instance) suits the music perfectly, and it’s actually nice on this occasion to be able to make out the lyrics; his experiments with clean vocals and the Maniac-style declaratory stuff is more of a mixed bag. When it works, it briefly reminds of Garm or Aldrahn, but when it doesn’t, it sounds out of place (the close of ‘Vapourized Tears’ is suspiciously like latter-day Katatonia – a band I love, but this just doesn’t fit with the rest of this album). The layered guitar sound retains some of the sense of melody from older Abigor, and is unquestionably tightly arranged and performed, and I personally like the slightly stop-start nature of some of the riffing. Also in common with older Abigor are the sheer number of riffs being utilised across the whole album, even if it sounds superficially more straightforward, owing to the impressive production that renders everything audible, which was still a bit of a rarity in black metal in 2007. The drumming of T.T. is predictably incredibly varied and impressive, and he has admirably turned his hand to the mechanical sound of the New Abigor.

This isn’t perfect and could easily be dismissed as an example of bandwagon-jumping by a previous innovator within the scene. I’m more charitable and think this is an excellent example of third-wave black metal embracing new influences and creating something of musical worth. Even if Abigor at this stage were not doing anything wildly ground-breaking, that doesn’t detract from the fact that this is an exceptionally solid set of songs that hang together as a coherent album and represent an impressive return from the proverbial grave for a band many had written off towards the end of the 00s. Recommended.

Score: 78%

Abaddon – I Am Legion

Author: Brendan Blake

Abaddon – I Am Legion
  • Artist: Abaddon
  • Album: I Am Legion
  • Year of Release: 2000
  • Country: UK
  • Label: Snapper Music
  • Format: Jewelcase CD
  • Catalogue Number: SMACD 822

Note – Originally written some years ago, but edited to fit blog format

As I’m sure anyone reading this will know, Tony ‘Abaddon’ Bray was the original drummer with Geordie legends Venom, one of the progenitors of the entire black metal genre in the early 80s. All three of the classic line-up have had a bash at solo records over the years, including Mantas’ rather limp soft rock album Winds Of Change, and Cronos’ solid if uninspired trad metal records in the mid-90s. It took Abaddon until 2000 to get round to releasing his own effort, I Am Legion. And it is fucking horrible.

I should start by saying that I have no objection to musicians moving on, trying new things, experimenting. But if you are going to do that, please try and make sure it’s good. I Am Legion is a vile mixture of incredibly simplistic groove metal riffing, with a few effects and electronic touches so he can try and claim that his new direction is ‘industrial’ and ‘cutting edge’.

It actually quite upset me to have to go back and listen to this again in order to review it. I’m trying to think of nice things to say about it but I’m struggling… the production is probably supposed to be raw and in-your-face, but the vocals are buried in the mix and the guitar is crushed under so many effects that virtually all melody is lost. The drumming, simplistic even by Venom standards, sounds lacklustre and bored. The lyrics are juvenile at best, with opener ‘White Nigger Trash’ setting the stall out – trying to come across as edgy by using pointlessly offensive language. I’m not being prudish here, but there’s nothing shocking here, just an old man out of touch with the world, trying to sound like he has a political point to make; in reality this sounded dated in 2000, and listening at the back end of 2019 it sounds somehow even more woeful.

To add insult to injury, the track ‘Hollow Voices’ is simply a re-working of ‘Domus Mundi’ from the rather fine Venom album Cast In Stone, and ‘Holy Man’ is a re-working of an obscure Venom track of the same name that they recorded for their own tribute album(!). This leaves us with five other mediocre tracks and a closing instrumental.

As a die-hard and long-term Venom fanatic, it pains me to say this, but this is one of the worst albums I have the misfortune to have been suckered into buying. Pitiful. Don’t make the same mistake I did, and avoid this like the plague.

Score: 14% (it’s Christmas and I’m feeling generous)