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Album Of The Month February 2012
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

  1. I see nothing special.

  2. I see something special

  3. I can’t stop hearing Welcome Home (Sanitarium). Sounds great, though.

  4. It’s also worth noting that Bryan formally of Altar of Plagues has been playing bass for Abigail Williams for their last two tours so the AOP influence is defiantly there.

  5. Ah, hadnt a clue about that. Certainly makes sense now.

  6. that’s fuckin class. Will defo investigate further

  7. me likey

  8. i’m unsure based on that track, but it seems interesting enough for a bit of further digging. unexpected to say the least, I was holding on to some long term assumptions about their crapness.


  10. Brilliant album this. Infinite Fields of Mind being my favourit track, tis a Beascht!!

  11. So nobody remembers when these lads tried to mix metalcore and Dimmu Borgir style ‘black metal’…? Even if this album was any good, I couldnt take it seriously knowing that they came out with that utter rubbish in the past.

  12. that’s a laughably reductive opinion. an embarassing past is no preclusion to future respectibility, as I’m sure all our family photo albums would prove.

  13. So we rule out Judas Priest because of Rocka Rolla?

    I think not.

  14. i misspelt “respectability”, how disrespectful of me. feck.

    listening to other bits and pieces of it now, might be worth a punt to see how the whole thing knits together.

  15. That’s hardly a valid comparison Earl Grey. In fairness to Priest we are talking about the genesis of metal as an entire musical genre with their first couple of albums. Rock n roll was arguably fairly young itself in the early 70’s. AW had about 40 or 50 years of decent stuff to be influenced by but fecked it up. But yeah, the above track is decent alright. How honest are they though if they can hop from one style to another like that?

  16. These guys have had alot of members come and go over the last few years so I’d imagin that will greatly affect their sound. Yeah a couple of years ago they had this fairly obvious “core” influence in their tunes while still being heavily influence by black metal but I think the members who would have brought those influences in have now left the band, leaving them to openly explore the black metal sound. Sounds good to these ears anyway!

  17. Earl Grey Says:

    Darkthrone started as a death metal band – ‘Soulside Journey’ wasnt exactly ‘Transylvanian Hunger’. But yes, point about actually creating a genre taken.

  18. Eoin McLove Says:

    On a sidenote (I haven’t listened to the tune yet so I can’t comment either way on their music), didn’t Conor ‘From the Bogs of Aughiska’ O’Drona contribute to this album with intro and outro or something?

  19. ^ Yep, he did the intro for them at least.

  20. Wow. I actually enjoyed that song a lot more than I thought I would. Can also hear Welcome Home (Sanitarium) in there but without wanting to start a session of Metallica bashing (warranted or otherwise!), that’s not a bad thing.

  21. alsvartr666 Says:

    I’ve somehow managed to avoid listening to Abigail Williams, but the track above has certainly warranted further exploration. Haunting indeed.

  22. Eoin McLove Says:

    This actually doesn’t sound half bad. I hate the name and the fact that they seem to have jumped from one ‘cool’ style to another- like it or lump it, it does leave a sour taste in the mouth. Anyway, when things slow down here it gets quite interesting. Hearing a bit of Agalloch in there in the vocal department. I can’t see myself rushing out to buy this as there is just so much excellent BM coming out at the minute (check out the label Terratur Possessions for example- bands that are both traditional and forward looking getting released through that label and a really high standard across the board). But yeah, this is nowhere near as bad as I was expecting.

  23. I actually liked their debut album ‘In The Shadow of a Thousand Suns’, (I reviewed it on amazon uk if anyone’s that bored ), while not in any way original, it did seem to work for me, but everyone’s taste is different! Would def be interested in giving this a listen. Anyone know anything about their last album ‘In the Absence of Light’?. It got horrid reviews.

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