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Abigor - Quintessence - 75%

PurpleDoom, July 31st, 2012

"Quintessence" is a fascinating release that, over the course of two discs and nearly two hours of music, gives the listener both the newest and oldest of Abigor's catalogue. "Newest", of course, is a bit of a loose term here, as disc 1 is rather a reworked version of 1999's "Channeling the Quintessence of Satan", but this version is significantly different and does contain new recording (new vocals and bass tracks) and writing (revised lyrics and a new intro), as well as a thoroughly redone production job.

"Channelling the Quintessence of Satan 2009-2011" begins with a sinister introduction quite different from the one on the original version. The track slowly builds up until its conclusion, when "Equilibrium Pass By" makes its entrance, veritably exploding into the listener's ears. The rapid, raging pace set here lets up only to allow for eleven spoken word passages that are scattered throughout the album's eight tracks; one might worry that they may ruin the pace or atmosphere of the album, but rest assured that these sections do neither, rather acting as an effective segue from one part of a song to another.

The instrumentation is superb. The guitars speed through thick and complex riffs, many of them genuinely sinister-sounding - something I often find lacking in bands claiming to "sound evil". The drumming matches the maddening pace of the guitars, but despite the obvious and prominent skill of the drummer, the percussion is almost always relegated to be in the background, supporting the guitars. Not that this is a horribly awful thing, of course - it is part of the rhythm section, after all - but it would have been nice if the drums had a few more opportunities to really come to the forefront.

I have mixed feelings about the vocals. A.R.'s style largely consists of generic black metal shrieks of no particular note. However, at times - such as the beginning of Equilibrium Pass By - he shows that he can pull off both insane-sounding screams and a very unique, eerie clean vocal style. He's a far cry from the worst black metal vocalist out there, but I wish more time was spent playing up to his strengths.

Unfortunately, despite the excellent instrumentation and skill of the musicians, the songwriting is not always perfect. Some sections are simply weaker than others, while some have so much going on simultaneously that it takes many listens to fully discern what is going on. This is appealing to many listeners, and of course it gets better with time in these parts, but it may mark the first couple of listens.

The second disc is a collection of all of Abigor's officially released demos (In Hate & Sin is absent, I guess because the band considers it more of a promo than a demo.) While it serves as an interesting look into the band's early days, it's a rather mixed bag on a musical level. "Lux Devicta Est", which kicks off this disc, is alright, and certainly has its bright spots (I'm personally quite fond of Crawl Back To Your Cross) but spends most of its time wallowing in the realm of mediocre early-90s black metal. "Promo 2/94" is a step up in terms of consistent quality, but, again, little really ends up standing out. The "Moonrise" demo, however, contains two excellent tracks; they don't match anything on disc 1 by a long shot, but they stand head and shoulders above everything else on the demo disc, as they display more complex, interesting songwriting. The same can certainly not be said of "Ash Nazg...", the band's first demo and the last on disc 2 (for whatever reason.) These last three tracks are rather poor (though Shadowlord begins to show some of the developments seen on Lux Devicta Est) and serve merely as an amusing trifle, a look at the band's first stumbles into musical territory.

Overall, while this functions as an interesting look at the musical history of Abigor, the music itself is hit or miss; the reworked "Channelling the Quintessence of Satan" is far and away the stronger body of work, as most of the demos on disc 2 are either mediocre or weak. It's ultimately worth the purchase for the first disc, but it's not really something you should actively seek out unless you're an avid Abigor fan.