Abbath proves his trve worth.
When the news broke that Olve Eikemo, otherwise known as Abbath, had quit (politely put) legendary black metal pioneers Immortal, many feared it was the end of an era. However, the grim faithful can rest easy with the release of the musician's debut solo record, which proves the frontman still has the drive, the anger and the darkness stirring within.
'To War!' opens proceedings and presents listeners with what we had come to expect from Abbath's Scandinavian mainstay before the (sensitive) split. Furious, thrash-inspired black metal underpins the vocalist's grim growls that sit beneath the collective chaos. What may catch listeners off guard, however, is the increased production quality. Gone are the grainy, low-fi recordings that characterised black metal bands of old, with each song recorded in pristine clarity - a characteristic that often allowed Immortal to stand out from their contemporaries.
What Abbath pulls off over his black metal colleagues is an ability to craft songs that contain musical direction. 'Ocean of Wounds' begins with a pounding groove, courtesy of stand in drummer Kevin Foley, before settling into a rhythmic march that takes its time to develop, rising and then slowly fading away. Likewise, 'Count the Dead' doesn't descend into pointless blast beats and shrieking. Aside from a frenetic introduction, the body of the song emphasises the groove element of heavy music, allowing a steady drum beat to hold it down, before easing into a blast section that does not arrive from nothing. Equally, the guitar solo will take many black metal fans by surprise, with the unexpected show of musicianship a refreshing addition. A definite album highlight.
Throughout the album, Abbath refuses to succumb to the elitist rules of the black metal community. 'Fenrir Hunts' has enough intensity to satisfy the purists, but clocking in at four minutes with an audible song structure and another guitar solo, it’s likely to start more than one war in the comment sections. Likewise, 'Root of the Mountain' has a cold, 'Sons of Northern Darkness' atmosphere yet grooves with maturity, and transitions smoothly between each section, successfully painting a bleak canvass of the Norwegian countryside.
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'Endless' sees off the album with a furious cut that storms away for two minutes before settling into one of the most head-bopping grooves on the record. The aforementioned in many ways sums up the full-length, with traditional black metal elements fused with an awareness of the importance of proper song writing and musicianship. Therein lies the spirit of the record. Aggression but with a sense of musicality, melody and beauty.
Abbath shows on 'Abbath' that he isn't afraid to traverse into territory that other black metal bands despise. The production is good, the bass can be heard and the solos wail. This is a great record.
1. To War
2. Winter Bane
3. Ashes Of The Damned
4. Ocean Of Wounds
5. Count The Dead
6. Fenrir Hunts
7. Root Of The Mountain
9. Nebular Ravens Winter (bonus track)