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Much in the same vein as other similar acts like Deathspell Omega and Blut Aus Nord, the Austrian trio Abigor plays a very dark, eccentric and chaotic brand of black metal. Although many will have been introduced to the scene of black metal through the classic 'raw' acts like early Bathory or Mayhem, Abigor takes the melancholic and intense sound and runs with it in an entirely different direction here, with their 2010 album, entitled 'Time Is The Sulphur In The Veins Of The Saint.' Essentially a forty minute long composition divided into halves, there is an undeniable sense of ambition here that seems to run through almost every idea they employ, and I find myself quite impressed by what the satanic Austrians have compiled here, even if the record may be a bit light on adhesive.
Abigor's earlier material was much more straightforward and to-the-point, and it should come as quite a surprise to someone who has not heard them since then to come across this record, which is very quick to set aside the rather concrete conventions widely held by black metallers. There are still raspy vocals, quickly strummed guitar rhythms and aggressive drum work, but it is the sense of eccentric dynamic that sets Abigor aside from merely being another clone. Although it is difficult to distinguish any particular element of this massive composition, it is quite common for the band to go from a heavy section of orthodox black metal to an eerie choral section, ambient soundscape, electronic beat, or even a hint or two of pop music. All of this variety is bound together by a rather similar mood and theme that prevails throughout 'Time Is The Sulphur'; commonly being darkness, and aspects of satanism respectively. Unfortunately, the concept of hailing Satan in black metal has been overused to the point of being a joke, and Abigor are not able to pull it off without it sounding a little cheesy in parts.
As often occurs with longer pieces of music, 'Time Is The Sulphur' is a challenging piece of music to get into, and takes quite a few listens before the majority of its layers unfold before the listener. Even many listens in though, Abigor's music retains an aspect of novelty, due in no small part due to the fact that they have crammed about as many musical ideas into this album as they could have likely hoped for. The downside to this is that there is a lack of overall cohesion to the album that I would associate with a masterpiece. That being said, the music is always kept very interesting, even if some of the ideas may not entirely work to the band's benefit.
I consider the predecessor as a masterpiece of modern/industrial/avant-garde black metal and was wondering about what comes next. Will they change their style into a new direction – or create something like "Fractal...." Part II ?
Well, the result is pretty much a mix of both. "Time is the sulphur..." contains all the ingredients that made "Fractal" a great album and is even more extreme in many aspects, especially considering the "love it, or hate it" aspect, which is the reason why only very few people will appreciate it.
This time, the album consists only of two songs, each longing for 20 minutes. They are highly complex, intense and inaccessible, and there is no catchiness to be found. There are almost no melodies in a traditional sense. You have to listen to the album several times to understand it, to understand the song structures, and to conceive all the small details - and even after many listens you will still find things that you haven't heard before. But it's worth your patience because it's just as good as "Fractal..." and some parts it might be even better.
There are industrial samples and strange effects again, but they fit perfectly to the music and enrich the atmosphere of the songs. And also the bass plays an important role again – it's always audible (as all the other instruments) and makes the music more interesting. The vocals are outstanding: they range from deep growls and angry screams to spoken and sometimes even elegiac passages. And the drums? They are incredible precise as always. And I rarely heard drums with so much diversity on a black metal album.
The lyrics are about Satanism, but not in a blasphemous way ... in fact, it's a more theological approach like Deathspell Omega did on their "Si momentum..." album. As the title of the album suggests, they are about time and Satan's influence on the cosmos. Read them and interpret them your own way.
However: purists will hate this album. But I don't care. Abigor is nowadays more evil, satanic and insane than 99% of all Darkclones out there. My only complain is, that it's way too short...
Anyone caught dreaming that Abigor were going to suddenly shy away from the post-modern, experimental direction they took with 2007's Fractal Possession is in for quite a downspell, as Time is the Sulphur in the Veins of the Saint makes its predecessor seem almost 'accessible' by comparison. Never one to abide by trends or give a flying fuck about what some backwards fanbase expects of them, Abigor have cemented their commitment to a vivid exploration of sound, loosely rooted in the black and industrial hybrid of their last effort, but straining the boundaries of balance and sanity. The entire album is a 38 minute concept broken into two untitled sections, thus one is removed from even the benefit of labeling its individual tracks. It is meant to be taken in at a sitting, which can become quite a trial as its ever shifting landscape rarely decides to about face and tread the same terrains.
Progressive by the very definition, Time is the Sulphur in the Veins of the Saint is far beyond the constraint of simple idenfitication. There is metal here, and plenty of it, but it is almost always used as a percussive force or a titillating wall of melody that drives the narrative nature of this cerebral, paralytic story. Perhaps some of the most frenetic and insane fretwork occurs just beyond the 10:00 mark of "Part II", which sounds like earlier Cynic on crack, and P.K.'s bass is nearly as fragrant and volatile as his guitar. Yes, this is the type of album fans of Mr. Bungle, Ephel Duath or Dillinger Escape Plan might find themselves invested in, though they will be dealing with Arthur Rosar's debilitating, decrepit vocal candor which walks the fine line between a blacker aesthetic and the early adopted EBM torture of Skinny Puppy. But for the chaos present, there also rings a clarity, a penchant for moments of soothing and hypnotic scenery, like the clockwork that opens "Part I" (the more chaotic of the two presentations) or the haunting midsection of "Part II".
Though I found myself drawn in, fascinated by the band's currency of anarchic sonic architecture, I will admit there are points at which the album does stumble forward to evoking each new level of consciousness. You become so reverent towards the sheer effort of the sound's entropy, that individual rhythms do not often feel striking or catchy apart from the sum of the composition. The guitar tones are often quite thin, as if to counterpoint the fuzzy, plumbing bass tone, and though it will often rage forward into something resembling a black metal blast, this is an album more of subtleties than brazen riffing. The previous Fractal Possession had a lot more moments that would scream out inside my head, but this is still an interesting journey that should satisfy fans of the avant-garde and bizarre (Solefald, Ulver, and Fleurety all spring to mind as bands who walk a separate, but similar path of the outsider).
To make it even more fascinating, this album is part of a pseudo-set with the latest from France's Blacklodge, based around an Albert Einstein quote...not something you hear every day.