without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
Abigor are a classic example of 90's progressive/technical black metal at it's prime. They were often overshadowed by the Norwegian scene bands like Emperor, Enslaved, Satyricon etc. and also by fellow countrymen Summoning with their more conventional approach, but all of Abigor's albums contain at least some merit. Songs utilize jigsaw-like technical guitar work which often counterpoint between each other at odd tempo's and songs sprawl out like mini impressionistic masterpieces, many riffs which repeat only a few times per song and interrupted at various points with keyboard/ambient interludes that invoke either paganisitic/medievalish atmospheres and/or cosmic spaciness. It usually takes me some time to digest an Abigor album as their songs aren't as immediately grabbing as other aforementioned bands but I personally think that's part of their strength as there is so much going on this is really sophisticated and ultimately rewarding music that I can return to time and again.
Here we have Supreme Immortal Art, an album which follows the very streamlined and straightforward Apocalypse EP by doing the exact opposite. The keyboards here are at full blast which is I suppose in keeping with the time period 1998 when every band was getting the keyboard treatment and reminds me a bit of releases from Limbonic Art, Summoning (naturally due to the excellent and distinctive vocals of Silenius) and of course Emperor in it's complexity and symphonic majesty. While the keys might have turned off some fans I think they are very well suited to the material which utilizes more classical structure than before. There are plenty of arpeggios and interplay between guitar riffs and keys which all goes very well with the longer melodic phrasing that this band likes to utilize. While Abigor never returned to this style again, I see it as ambitious and an interesting experiment for a band that never wrote the same album twice. The guitars here also have the beginnings of an avant garde leaning that they would fully embrace in later releases but here it is still firmly in the black metal tradition with generous nods to the carnival sounds of bands like Arcturus. While they are sometimes criticized for being a band of riffs rather than songs I also think that's a trait common to mid 90's black metal bands like Satyricon or Enslaved who also used to use a ton of riffs per album but in my opinion there is enough compositional cohesion in this to make it work. Where the album really falls flat is the production. It's absolutely horrid and took me quite awhile to get used to. Guitars are muddy (hissy?), the drums almost non-existent and the release overall sounds foggy so as a result I passed it by for years until later realizing it's quality. Not that any of the Abigor releases ever had great production, most sounding like demo quality at best, but oh how I wish the band would remaster this album as I feel it's highly underrated and deserved better as some of the power of the material is buried by the weird production. They've released several demo's and a re-working of Soil of Souls recently (albeit without keys) which show what the album could have been with the right production and might one day be if they decide to fully rework it (hint).
If you are a fan of aggressive symphonic black metal then this album is one of the best I've heard. I'm not sure I would say this is superior to the masterpiece that is Nachthymnen but it's pretty close and showcases the bands incredible growth as musicians from the early days. That being said, internal strife between the musicians at this time suggests that the bands consistent vision which started with Verwustung and perfected with albums like Nachthymnen and the almost equally excellent Opus IV had possibly begun to falter here a bit (with Silenius and T.T soon exiting the band and production duties being handled solely by P.K.), but both this and the following album Channeling the Quintessence of Satan (even Satanized to a degree), are very worthy of praise for their evolution, complexity and intelligent songwriting despite their productions being varying degrees of fail.
It has always boggled my mind that this album isn't in every Black Metal fans top ten list of greatest BM albums. Released is 1998 it is very much a product of its time, though this in no way hinders its impact or cultural relevance. At the same time when other meisterwerken were seeing the light of day (AttWaD, Nightwing, Nemesis Divina, to name a few...), Supreme Immortal Art was largely ignored, overlooked, or forgotten. Why? The answers put forth have always boggled my mind (such as over-written, poor production, too keyboard-oriented, etc, etc.).
The album is Symphonic Black Metal to a degree that would rival the compositional efforts of Emperor, Limbonic Art, or ...And Oceans. The song structures on display here are complex, deep, intricate and emotional. No doubt that this was achieved to a large degree by the core trio working with two other keyboard composers throughout the course of the albums recording. This in turn lends the finished product depth and scope unfound in prior or future works by this monumental band, with the keyboard elements largely disappearing altogether in favour of a more grind/math inspired future. One of the only real criticisms leveled against this album has been the heavy handed use of keyboard in the songs; this 'criticism' has always confused me, especially when taking Emperor and Satyricon of the era into account.
The songs themselves are always cohesive in relationship to one another, and epically broad in scope when taken as a whole. The lyrical concepts behind the album include satan, but rather then a comic book version of some Dark Lord, Satan here is envisioned a a real, decrepit, corrupt, and powerful force in equal measure. Other lyrical themes that are woven within and around that of daemonology are loneliness, isolation, revenge and despair; a far broader gamot to run at the time.
The vocals are perfect in execution and production, as are the lead guitars and keyboard. The single reason why this true work of art does not receive a 100% from me is the production on the kick drums and snare. The drumming by T.T. is (as always) some of the best in the genre, but a touch higher volume on the kick drums and some more depth/reverb on the snare would have been PERFECT. As well, some of the rhythm guitar/bass lines could have been clearer in the mix, and more depth through bass. Oh, why I wouldn't give for a copy of the master tracks! The samples are all taken from a single film, and fit the themes of revenge, betrayal and isolation perfectly.
Every track is sublime, but some of the standouts are 'Soil of Souls,' 'Eclipse My Heart/Crown Me King,' and the single greatest track, 'Blood and Soil' (truely one of the best Black Metal songs ever written and recorded!).
Ignore the detractors, and listen-really LISTEN-to this album. You will be well rewarded!
'Is there hope for the blood of life? Or... will I always fly alone?'
I’m a fan of Abigor, but I see “Verwüstung” and “Opus IV” as being their only albums worthy of purchase. “Supreme Immortal Art” is a pretentious, insincere, unfocused attempt at melodic, symphonic black metal. I must give credit where it’s due though, and say that the song structures are complex, and therefore must have required significant effort in writing. Unfortunately this effort was mostly fruitless, and yes I know this contradicts my review title. The phrase “less is more” has never been more true.
This album is very keyboard/synth laden, and provides some nice melodies. This is intended to be haunting, grandiose and possibly a bit mysterious. The guitars are usually secondary to the keyboards, and the riffs were seemingly written purely as a back-up to the keyboards. Occasionally they emerge with a semi-catchy melody, but generally just chug along in the background. The keyboards are very clean in sound, but the drums tend to be lost in the mix, and this is quite frustrating for the metal listener who wants some aggression or intensity in his/her music, or at least something to punctuate the notes being played. This causes the music to feel like a blur, where definition is lost, especially in the faster sections of songs. The songs rely heavily on Silenius to provide the exclamation marks for individual riffs with his unique snarled screams. The lack of metallic elements in this album causes it to be an unfulfilling listen.
Each song has several different “parts”, as the band was clearly aiming for complexity in song writing, but this seems to be a cover-up for the fact that each part is not particularly interesting on its own. They feel the need to change tempo and melody many times within a song because this is necessary to avoid boredom. As stated earlier, a great deal of effort was put into writing many different riffs and melodies, but they forgot to figure out a meaningful way of putting them all together. In some of the songs there really is nothing to hold them together, no recurring theme or motif to give the songs their identity. The songs are really just a sequence of different ideas and tempo changes. The best music of this genre is able to execute tempo changes by gradually building up to a climax and arousing emotion. Often the transition takes time, requiring repetition. On this album, the tempo changes are tactless and sudden; the lead instruments stop, and then start up again playing a different tune.
Clearly Abigor had difficulty with their transitions between parts of songs, as described above. They even felt the need to separate particular sections with pointless three-second samples. During the title track there are two such instances; the music abruptly stops, an angry man with a deep voice yells something in German (I think) for about three seconds, and then a totally different riff starts up. During “Eclipse My Heart, Crown Me King”, the same thing happens, except with various pointless grunts and groans. During “Blood and Soil”, we have three seconds of operatic female singing, and during “Magic Glass Monument” it’s a man yelling as if he’s about to stab someone. For the better albums of the genre, sometimes reviewers will describe tempo changes and transitions as being “seamless”. The segues listed above are about as effective and aesthetically pleasing as stitching up your pants with spaghetti.
This album would be good as background music, and certainly becomes relegated to this role during the times where I force myself to listen to it. The album title best describes what Abigor’s intent was with this album. They wanted this work of art to be supreme in an objective sense, with lots of “stuff” in it, but they forgot to decide what kind of art they wanted to create.