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Abigail Williams have undergone a major style change with their third full-length studio effort, Becoming. Previously the band made their debut with In the Shadow of A Thousand Suns, which most disregard as simple Emperor style worship, but their second album, In the Absence of Light, showed more potential than its predecessor. In 2011, when the single "Radiance" hit the internet, audiences everywhere were stunned with what they heard; raw atmospheric black metal. Something completely different than the previous two records, and something completely unexpected. Has this new path revealed success for Abigail Williams?
Right from the moment that the cd begins playing the listener is hit instantaneously with raw black metal quality, however something sounds off. Rather than being recorded in true black metal style, with authentic lo-fi production and equipment, the entirety of this album sounds like it has been edited to take on the raw qualities and that it may have been originally recorded in crisp, clean quality. Throughout the album, Becoming tends to waiver in these raw qualities and never quite sticks to one sound. Sometimes the guitars sound clean and well produced, usually during the long alternating picking pattern sessions, other times they are a muffle of dampened mess, generally during power chord riffs. The drums also carry the same muffle... varyingly. The hi-hat and snare are heard with crisp enforcement, the snare even taking on a nice reverb echo that makes it sound all the more powerful, but the bass drum sounds as if it has a pillow or two shoved inside which is a shame because there are some rather decent double bass drumming sections to be heard.
From the start, the vocals are so distorted that any hope to recognize lyrics is abandoned, even when reading along with a lyric sheet. The distortion that surrounds the vocal track is reminiscent of a megaphone effect, though this could be for the better since the lyrics tend to be just as mind numbing as the overall song composure. Bass is also something that isn't heard often within this material, "Radiance" has an area where the bass comes to the front of the mix for a bit and then diminishes. It should be noted that Bryan O' Sullivan plays bass on this track and not Ken Sorceron, who does the bass, vocals and rhythm guitar on the rest of the content.
The content in Becoming is soaked in raw black metal worship and bleeds with excess, unintentionally poisoning itself by trying too hard. When taking in the material at hand, one must think to themselves how any of the tracks from this album would ever be pulled off live and be kept interesting. Half of the songs drone on for over ten minutes, the longest being "Beyond the Veil" which comes in at a hefty seventeen minutes, thirty one seconds. "Beyond the Veil" showcases a decent array of arrangements and compositions which flows tight and fluidly throughout the near twenty minute audible display, starting out with a cello solo. This track also sounds the cleanest of the six song track list. "Three Days of Darkness" is an instrumental in which the first minute and a half is comprised of synthesizers and horror effects that create a suitable atmosphere, however this is torn away during the latter half of the song which turns out to be drastically different, unnecessary, and kills any sort of mood that the band attempted to set up.
Every song, in one way or another, seems to find an alternating picking pattern that it sticks to. "Radiance" is an example of this, as well as the first two minutes or so of "Infinite Fields of Mind", which turns out to be another decent but exceedingly long track. The content is undoubtedly chocked with filler and drones on longer than it should.
Becoming is purely and simply raw black metal worship at its worst. Unrecognizable vocals and varying production qualities are the biggest downfalls of this record along with lack of progression, skill development, or any sort of development. This is more than one giant step backwards for Abigail Williams, it's a fall down a mountainous staircase leaving much work to do to get back where they were. Becoming is a definite pass for old and new fans, those that do choose to see what lies within its depths will be met with long, drawn out, mind-numbing faux raw black metal. There is nothing to see here folks... move along.
- Villi Thorne