Abigail Williams | ‘Becoming’
When a tight circle of young Black Metal bands quietly shuffled onto stage fronts a few years ago, it wouldn’t have seemed like anyone should care.
What could they have to offer that anyone hadn’t heard before? And what the fuck were they wearing?
It didn’t take long for many to realise that the answer was a new approach.
Young enough not to have to justify themselves with facepaint, free enough to be allowed other influences and smart enough to realise that was the best possible starting point in order to reinvigorate the genre, bands like Altar Of Plagues and a clutch of others dilligently went about making great music.
Even two albums back, Abigail Williams hardly marked themselves out for greatness. They’ve more or less morphed styles with each of their few albums to date, and haven’t exactly gotten much attention for doing so.
It seems that that was a refining process – because they’ve finally discovered the sound that they’re fantastically good at. And who knew it would be symphonic black metal in the nineties style?
Perhaps it’s because that particular style has had a bit of time to breathe, after being overexposed for far too long. Perhaps it’s because the sound of younger minds putting it together makes it a bit more invigorating by default.
Either way, tracks like ‘Ascension Sickness’ on this excellent album remind you that speeding, ambitious black metal full of keyboards and long, cold, spectral rasps still has the power to make the hairs stand on the back of your neck.
It’s heartening to see one of Ireland’s most promising bands now influencing on a world stage: the sounds of Altar Of Plagues are all over the superb ‘Elestial’. Opening with a hollow, dejected chordal pluck, out of nowhere swoops in one of the fastest and most powerfully speeding beats I’ve heard in absolutely ages.
Accelerating to the kinds of speeds reached by Enslaved’s ‘Eld’ or perhaps Horgh’s finest moments with Immortal, it’s pretty breathtaking. Sinking back into a woozy cataonia, the rest of the track is full of barely produced warmth and authenticity.
The rest of the album is similarly enveloping, similarly haunting.
It goes without saying that this band couldnt be further from the traditional image of ‘proper’ black metal. I’m not saying that being ‘proper’ isn’t important – it is, and vastly so. But not to young bands like Abigail Williams. They dont require that yoke. They would be limited by the definition.
It’s all about the music, and no matter how many stylistic shifts they’ve undergone in their brief existence, they’ve finally hit upon the one that fits. Does that mean they’re simply opportunistic? Perhaps.
The final word though is that they’ve produced an amazingly enjoyable and stirring post-Black Metal album full of homage to the old greats. Enjoying it for it’s own sake is all the justification you should need.
Fast, wounded, ghostly and powerful. Get it.
4.2 / 5 ::: Earl Grey – 14/02/12