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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/