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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.