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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.