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%

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%