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Black metal? Sort of. - 70%

broomybroomybroomy, July 16th, 2012

Abigail Williams is a band that began as "symphonic blackened metalcore" and has since abandoned it to attempt a more purist form of black metal. They've completely dropped the breakdowns, and mostly dropped the synthesizers. I've noticed that black metal elitists hate them for trying, and mallcore kids hate them for abandoning their original sound. However, I am going to try to be a little more impartial. I have listened to the record a few times and have decided that this record isn't terrible.

Now, the first thing I recognized was that most of the guitar riffs are pretty simple. It's like they write the kind of riffs that one would teach in an "Introduction to Black Metal" course. Most of them flow pretty well, one after another, at predictable intervals. Throughout most of this record, nothing really begs for my attention and nothing really sounds grating to me. There are dual-guitars, one usually layered over the other by playing its root chords. It's very formulaic; it plays it safe. Occasionally, something will catch me by surprise, but it will lapse and I'll be waiting patiently again for the next moment.

The second thing I noticed was that, although the music is structurally black metal, I don't think it is spiritually black metal. The music is always played at a lethargic, moderate pace. It's like the music is almost mechanical. There is no chaos to be found here, which is usually at the heart of black metal. I would describe the sound as a little more "hypnotic." In lieu of synthesizers, the band often uses guitar effects to attempt an eerie, foreboding sound. During "In Death Comes the Great Silence," you'll hear the same oddly entrancing guitar riff, complemented by a crescendo of percussion. For some reason, it's one of their best moments in this album. I think their strong areas are their deliberately repetitive, melodic riffs. The sound quality is crystal-clear, so it sounds even less like traditional black metal. I'm really baffled at how I can't truly call it black metal, but I can't see myself calling it anything else. All the elements that comprise black metal are there, but it sounds extremely accessible and uninspired.

Despite the plethora of cookie-cutter black metal riffs, there are a few good moments to be found in this album. It's just mostly bland and a little cool, which is more than I can say for a lot of music.

Phoned-In Performance - 40%

FullMetalAttorney, November 24th, 2010

American black metallers Abigail Williams's second full-length, In the Absence of Light, shows the band changing their style yet again. They started out in a melodic black/deathcore sound, and changed to symphonic metal on their first LP. This album finds them in a more stripped-down black metal style, with the symphonic elements barely noticeable. In the end, that change seems like a bad decision.

The sound now reminds me a great deal of Watain's slower moments, or even a bit of Dark Fortress, although the vocals are in a screechier, Norwegian style. There are plenty of incredible riffs on this album, notably on album standout "The Mysteries That Bind the Flesh", or a "Bark at the Moon" sound-alike on "What Hells Await Me".

And I mean really good riffs--some of the best I've heard this year. So, what's the problem?

Well, the performance is lacking an indefinable spark. This type of stripped-down, riff-oriented black metal needs to be played with complete reckless abandon, but AW sounds like their hearts aren't in it, or they're lacking confidence, or band cohesion. Something. Maybe they didn't rehearse enough, or maybe they just don't care. A hint of that kind of energy and attitude can be found in the intros to the two songs I mentioned above, but not anywhere else.

If they had the same problem on In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns, I didn't notice it. There's a good chance all the symphonic stuff covered it up. Hence, I think toning that down was a bad choice.

There are a couple other problems. The wolf howls are way overdone on the intro track, and there are a couple of awkward transitions. But those could have been forgiven if this wasn't such a phoned-in performance.

The Verdict: With excellent riff-writing, this could have been a fantastic album. But it's not, thanks to the performance. There's a good chance these songs could slay live, but on this recording, they don't.

originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/

The Downward Spiral - 45%

doomknocker, September 29th, 2010

What a strange ride this Abigail Williams band has undertaken…the once and future darlings of Candlelight Records began life as a bothersome tick in the increasingly cluttered deathcore kids’ table, made all the more noticeable when they incorporated keyboards in a rather decent fashion. Fast forward a year or so and the group dissolved, only to rise from their ashes phoenix-like as a legit symphonic black metal act, shunning their early -core roots and blowing us all out of the water. “In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns” was a pretty decent album, showing that these fellas are TRULY able to write and perform good music (what the fuck took those guys so long???), and since then the tour circuit has seen them hit the stage ad nauseum for many, many months.

And since it’s been quite a while since they’d released any new material, let’s see if they still have those entertaining chops…

At first listen, it seems as though the second-album era Abigail is still there, but bogged down by a sensation of playing it safe and not letting the speed take full control, which can be both good (by way of the extra usage of ambient effects) and problematic (it doesn’t make for a truly entertaining listen). The vibe for this is more akin to an older scheme of black metal, as elements of older Gorgoroth, some “De Mysteriis…” era Mayhem, and slower, post-demo Emperor are delivered with that decidedly American crunch and venom. The blackened wares are still present, that’s for sure, and this is still a far better listen than their breakdown-crazy period, but does that mean it’s a complete, fantastic product? Well, yes and no…yes in that in this era of jag-off bands and half-baked albums, there can still exist a group that maintains a bit of the status quo that made the corpse painters so feared in their heyday, and no in that this new ABIGAIL WILLIAMS doesn’t sound like it’s even trying to create a true, cohesive album. The songwriting is pretty much just par for the course, where the monstrous yet thin guitars, atmospheric keyboards, reigned in percussion abuse and high-pitched rasping are tight in their delivery and arrangements, but is offset by a somewhat schizophrenic approach that bogs everything down to the point of tedium. Good riffs and moments abound, that’s for sure, but it seems every other riff and minute the band descends into moments of dullness and mediocrity, forcing the listener to either skip the given song altogether or skip ahead to see if anything else comes along to compensate for the doldrums that were the musical toast of the town for the past few minutes. Sometimes it happens, as in “The Mysteries That Bind the Flesh” and “In Death Comes the Great Silence”, but sometimes it doesn’t like “Hope the Great Betrayal” and “Infernal Divide”, so it really depends in the end.

For what it’s worth Abigail Williams delivers a mixed bag of fancy ideas and filler material that don’t gel into proper fruition as much as I’m sure they would’ve liked. I may come back to this time and again just for kicks, but I really doubt you’d see me wearing an Abigail… shirt. Yellow light; proceed with caution.