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Quite often, debut albums by some of the leading Black Metal bands are looked back on with a certain degree of condemnation. Take simply Darkthrone’s rather powerless “Soulside Journey”, Immortal’s unfocused “Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism” or even Mayhem’s wholly unrepresentative “Deathcrush” effort. All certainly have their place in the history of the genre but were undoubtedly bettered upon the releases of each band’s follow up album. However, for Austrian Black Metal band Abigor, their debut album shows an inventiveness far beyond that of a band trying merely to settle on the direction of their own sound.
Released in 1994, debatably at the peak of Black Metal’s creative and unique output, “Verwüstung/Invoke The Dark Age” is an album which immediately stands out from the releases of the perhaps more renowned Norwegian bands. Not only is there a strong utilisation of haunting keyboards within the music that was quite uncommon in early Black Metal, but there is also a poignant use of ambient acoustic guitar pieces throughout, both helping to enhance the band’s somewhat Pagan-influenced sound and adding to their creative and unique approach. Tracks such as “A Spell Of Dark And Evil” and “Kingdom Of Darkness” showcase such an ambience and create a definite melancholy atmosphere, devoid of the chaotic nature of some of the less experimental bands within the genre. Furthermore, guitarist Peter’s style of playing is not nearly as one-dimensional and linear as Black Metal often seems to expect. The epic nature of his guitar playing, combined with the ever-changing and often mid-paced drum patterns and an undeniably despondent tone, emphasise a unique talent that does not often show itself on a debut release.
Album highlights “In Sin” and the superb “Weeping Midwintertears” show that emotion and Black Metal can indeed co-exist and are actually an extremely effective pairing, with the sombre and slow guitar riffs duelling with gloomy keyboard passages and a painful barrage of torturous screaming vocals to generate an almost doom-laden mood. Nonetheless, “Verwüstung/Invoke The Dark Age” is an album that should appeal to all fans of Black Metal, as it still maintains many of its traditional traits. Although not as harshly produced as, for example Darkthrone, the sound of the album is clearly primitive and relatively unpolished, with even the keyboards sounding quite coarse in the overall mix. Also, tracks like opener “Universe Of Black Divine” and “Diabolic Unity” emphasise a more conventional and established Black Metal style within the album’s overall distinctive feel.
Not only is “Verwüstung/Invoke The Dark Age” an exceptionally impressive debut effort, but it is a truly unique, if not wholly underrated and unnoticed, gem from a period when mainly Scandinavian Black Metal was on the rise. Abigor offered a different stance when Black Metal’s decrees already seemed fixed and predetermined and so they should certainly not be overlooked as pioneers of intelligent experimentation within the genre.
Originally written for http://www.blastwave.co.uk