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It is common in the ruthless world of black metal, that some bands experience separation or a pause, more or less prolonged. I honestly thought that American band Abazagorath belonged to the prior category. Their latest album – Sacraments of the Final Atrocity – dates all the way back to 2004! Since then, a six-songs split was released in 2008 (with the Pennsylvanian group Blood Storm). Then, total silence. So it is with astonishment that I get my hands on a five songs eponym EP (2012), including an intro. It is with a new singer that Nyarlathotep (bass) and his band return to haunt our ears!
This quartet from New Jersey is not known for its subtlety. Previous albums, in fact confined Abazagorath to a fairly conventional United States black metal), that is to say, strongly tinged with death metal. Well this new EP offers some possible developments in the band’s music. Speed, although very present, is no longer the heart of the compositions. There is a real melodic work and a significant willingness to create harmonies rather than just hammering down blast beats. Even if the result is still akin to death metal, it is closer to Dissection than Deicide. This is particularly clear with a song like Storms of Destruction, where the intro and main rhythm (and some excerpts played without distortion) evoke 1990s Swedish death metal.
This EP is a good omen for the future of Abazagorath. The band evolves and refines its style, trying to going beyond a fairly conventional black/death metal. These five songs will make us wait until the release of a probable new album that will confirm (or not) the new path chosen by the band. 6/10
Originally written for metalobscur.com
Abazagorath can be considered veterans of black metal in their own rights, having formed all the way back in 1995 despite the scattered releases that they have released over the year. This year marks the band's break of silence 4 years after the release of their last material on their split with Blood Storm with their self-titled EP.
Album opener Conjuring is a calming track, with an almost depressive-sounding acoustic guitars before Norwegian black metal-inspired riffs come in without any warning, and one instantly knows roughly what to expect in the upcoming 22 minutes of this self-titled EP as the intro track closes with melodic lead guitar lines. As the EP begins proper with The Antigod, one is instantly reminded of Polish bands such as Thunderbolt with the riffing patterns, though Abazagorath tends to have a more melodic and somewhat desolate touch to the music through the melodies that are unleashed by Maelstrom, further reinforced as vocalist Nihilist comes in with his desperate, tortured shrieks. The Norwegian black metal sound of the band shines through even more evidently on tracks like Lapse, and is sure to please fans of black metal that leans more towards the cold and depressive end of the black metal spectrum. Storms of Destruction also sees the band utilise some subtle keyboards to bring about a haunting atmosphere.
However, there is still the element of aggression in the way that the band has executed the songs, with jarring guitar playing style at times by Maelstrom, that is backed by that ominous rumbling growl of bassist Nyarlathotep, which remains constantly audible throughout and certainly helps in making the listening experience an enjoyable one. The importance of the bass in the music is further shown in the short segment given to him on Lapse. Maelstrom also shows off his versatility, with his guitar solos ranging from full-on shred fests to more emotion-infused ones on Lapse, fitting to the entire mood of the album. Closing track Storms of Destruction even brings in an almost neo-classical influence with the intro lead guitars, not only through its melody but also through the playing style of Maelstrom, and further expands the sound of the band with the monstrous growls of Nihilist, aside from his usual shrieking style. The aggressive side of the band is best summarised on Immortals, with the track containing some of the most punishing sections unleashed by drummer Warhead, and also some of the fastest moments on the album.
Despite the release's short length (clocking just short of 23 minutes), this EP has sufficiently showed what 17 years of history has done for the band. The large range of playing styles and atmospheres on this EP also ensures that there is something for anyone who is a fan of black metal in general.
I've quite taken to the more experimental and progressive breed of black metal grown so rapidly in the past decade, worshiping bands like Enslaved and Klabautamann to no end. Such groups have evolved a genre not known for its technical courage to new heights of creativity and melody, increasing black metal's relevance in the present day. That doesn't mean, however, that a storm of bestial intensity can no longer enthrall the senses in our stuffy, elitist age of innovation equaling quality. Sometimes you just want a consistent torrent of sucker punches to the face, and in that light, Abazagorath has delivered in spades with their self-titled EP.
It would be fair to say that Abazagorath possesses a one-track mind, and luckily for us, that track is a mighty fine one replete with brutal yet catchy finesse. No screwing around is committed here. After a brief, subtle intro, "The Antigod" kicks it up a notch, blasting and pounding its way to the top with some melodic relief provided by the slower sections in between. In fact, this isn't just a voyage made by straight speed and aggression; the band expertly mixes in mid-paced riffs and patterns, making this swarm a bit more memorable and the tracks more distinguishable. Nihilist, if that is his real name, gives an appropriately tortured performance behind the microphone, and his vocal lines complement these tracks well. Sorry, weaklings: no clean vocals or ballads here. Heartbreaking, isn't it?
It's all cloaked in a modern (but not too shiny) production, so Abazagorath isn't exactly a second wave time capsule, not that it needs to be. The highlights are many, even for an EP. "Storms of Destruction" crawls from creation with a haunting and crafty intro, evoking the morbid resurrection of an ancient, evil spirit. The bludgeoning growls thrown in about halfway through only further such a vision as the subtle acoustics elucidate it. "Lapse" is the shortest complete composition here, and it doesn't fail to make a stirring impression with its blazing rhythms. Out of the 23 sharp minutes offered here, I can't really fault one, even if I found "Immortals" to be the least toxic of the bunch; not bad, and it certainly congeals with its surroundings, but it's not quite as memorable as the others.
I won't comment on this EP's place in Abazagorath's discography, as I'm not familiar with the older work of the band, but I really can't see this release disappointing any fan of primal, no-BS black metal. At any rate, Abazagorath should be a clear indication of a band alive, well, and thriving after four years of silence. I might like my black metal stirred with psychedelia and weirdness, but who's to say I can't pour a smooth glass of well-executed, abrasive chaos every once in a while? It's simple, it's relatively straightforward, but it's also sick and easily replayable. What could be wrong with that? A full-length release of this caliber could make some serious waves. Sure to provide a necessary component to your secret cult meetings.