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(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)
An album as impressive as Nachthymnen is going to be tough to make a followup to, though Abigor did put enough work into Opus IV to give it a fighting chance. It features some pieces of Nachthymnen and some new pieces, but ultimately cannot give the same great experiences.
And the unfortunate thing is that Opus IV does everything it's supposed to do as an Abigor album. It has nice atmosphere and lots of layered riffs in a single song (about eight in "Eerie Constellation" and around seven in "Breath From Worlds Beyond"). The atmosphere, even with its best parts like "Spektrale Schattenlicter"'s acoustic work in the songs outro and "Crimson Horizons and Ashen Skies" where the atmosphere fits right with the song title, isn't really as strong as Nachthymnen's super mystical atmosphere. I dare say that some attempts to be atmospheric on Opus IV are even unwanted such as "The Elder God (My Dragon Magic"'s intrusive atmospheric interludes. I hate to say that because interludes would be fine if they went along with the song; but in this case, they're a little overdone. In "The Elder God", the song breaks at one point to play an acoustic interlude before returning to metal only to return to the same acoustic riff a minute later. Some time after, there's this crashing sound and Silenius shouting something. Perhaps I'm being nitpicky though. This song is otherwise perfectly fine. I just wish that it wasn't chopped up like this.
Production may be a banal thing to criticize in black metal, but Opus IV has one annoying aspect. The first four songs have production similar to Nachthymnen; but the latter four were mixed at a different date, and their production sounds not as good. It's not raw sounding; it just sounds like the music was recorded underwater. Apparently, Opus IV was originally supposed to be two separate demos called Horns Lurk Beyond the Stars and Blut Aus Aeonen so that would explain the contrast of production. Musically, it's still good, but the contrast of the production makes the album seem inconsistent. The album would be better if Abigor chose to mix all the songs to one type of sound, even if they were all underwater sounding.
As underwhelming to me as it is compared to Nachthymnen, I still enjoyed Opus IV. Sure the production inconsistency is a little annoying and there's a few things I'd change on certain songs, but the guitar and drum work is excellent and the use of acoustic instruments and keys great for the most part. A recommended listen for black metal fans.
This is actually not a true full-length album, technically speaking, but two EPs placed onto one CD and given the title of "Opus IV". I'm not sure what it was that made abigor want to release these two as one unit, but I applaud it…EPS are generally overpriced and not really worth the investment. Baring the fact that this consists of two different recording sessions and two obviously different songwriting directions, though, one might wonder how consistent this can possibly be. I would have to say that in both incarnations this album contains Abigor's best work by far. To me Abigor has always been a very inconsistent band, with the exception of this, which I love.
Actually, what I really love about this is the first recording featured, called "Horns Lurk Beyond the Stars". Rather than the medieval, pagan themes presented on past Abigor works, this has a distinctly cold, astral aura about it. The songs deal with the unknown terrors beyond the stars and how humankind is not prepared for what it will find in that infinite void, or at least, that is my own interpretation. Obviously, this bares more of a similarity to the more modern Abigor work, but it doesn't have the annoying atonal riffing and pointless stop & go construction that marred "Channeling the Quintessence of Satan" and "Satanized", nor is its presentation of cosmic themes as cheesy and reminiscent of a B grade sci-fi film as the latter album. Musically, this is raging, intense and yet still subtle in a way that only Abigor can be. Blasting, aggressive moments are tempered by quiet piano and flute parts, if you care to listen closely…and there are captivating guitar melodies woven underneath the chaos. As well as featuring what I think must be some of TT's best drumming, and Abigor's best over-all production, Selenius throws in my favourite vocal performance of his, running the gamut from furious shrieks, to sinister spoken passages, to the effective angry rasping he utilized on the "Apokalypse" MCD. Those who can only appreciate the more melodic side of Abigor may be disappointed, as there is a lot more dissonance here, and the melodies are fleeting and less overt. To me though, this is the perfect incarnation of the band. I always found "Nachthymnen" and prior Abigor to be rather excessive in its melodious noodling. Now and again, you just want them to "kick your arse" or throw in a great riff, but it would never happen. Here though, Abigor haven't completely forsaken the melody, yet there are some genuinely twisted riffs to be heard that are perhaps a precursor to the ugly and jarring compositions of "Satanized" and "Channeling…", but seem to be delivered here with more subtlety and intelligence toward songwriting. "A Breath From World's Beyond" is a noteworthy example of well-used dissonance; the simple yet odd little guitar hook that repeats whenever the drums and bass stop is fascinating, eerie and definitely alien in sound. The opener, "Crimson Horizons and Ashen Skies", starts things off with an intense blastbeat and scream, and stays fairly brutal throughout, yet beneath the maelstrom near the end of the song you can hear a foreboding flute melody…bloody eerie!
as for the second half of "Opus IV", it's good, but not as satisfying as it's predecessor. "Blut Aus Aeonen", as it's called, is rather like a cross between what was on the previous half of the album, and the medieval atmospherics of "Orcblutt: The Retaliation". The production, too, takes a major step downwards for this segment, and you'll have to turn up your stereo just to hear what's going on. However, this is definitely Abigor's best work in this vein, as it continues to be subtle and understated, with cool repeating motifs running through parts of "Dimensions of Thy Unforgiven Sins", and a couple of very captivating melodies. There is the occasional use of acoustic guitar and keyboards here, the latter very much in the background (thankfully), and the former taking center stage for the beautiful ending of "Spectrale Schatenlichter", which closes the album. The latter song is worth mentioning too, because up until the outro, it sounds as if something might have gone wrong in the recording (though I'm sure this was done purposefully). It's almost as if half the instrumentation and vocals were recorded backwards. Anyway, I do enjoy this half, but I don't think it goes so well with the definitely superior first part of the album. Usually, I play the first four tracks and save the latter half for another day. Taken on its own, "Blut Aus Aeonnen", is a very solid piece of melodious black metal conjuring images of sorcery, battles and solitude.
So, if you are an Abigor fan, you definitely must have this in your collection. if you don't know Abigor or are dubious about their output, this is the best place to start, and, I dare say, the only release by the Austrian trio you'll really need.