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First, what a band name...
Secondly, what a kick ass band! Set Ablaze the Kingdom of Abraham is an adrenaline rush of Canadian filth, barbaric old school death and black metal which isn't afraid to incorporate catchy leads, punk toned rhythms and in some spots... EXCELLENT doom at a raunchy, slow pace. I was actually sad when this EP ended, 20 minutes just didn't feel like enough!
The EP features three originals and a cover of Autopsy's "Ridden With Disease". "Archfiend" opens with the creepy sample of a woman speaking and then a volley of charnel house death metal grooves over a rapid and tinny drum kit. Make no mistake about it, this band sounds old, old in an intentional way which recalls the pure darkness of the early 90s, emerging death and black scenes. Hellhammer and Beherit sprung to mind immediately, along with a host of others too long to list. There is simply an air of authenticity in this band's sound, as if they took the last 15 years of metal and proudly cast it out the fucking door. "He of Wretched Deeds" creates a Slayer-like, slothful atmosphere of evil before lurching into some blackish doom. "All Devourer" is even more evil, leading off with a Sabbath style riff and then some great old churning death metal. The Autopsy cover sounds a little different than the rest of the material, with some more vitriol to the vocals.
Begrime Exemious is sufficiently sinister to deliver this old school hybrid of material, and the EP is a pleasure while it lasts. Hopefully a deal is in the works for a full length.
Usually I like to save my fanatical fanboy fervour over much anticipated releases for bands who have an extensive back catalogue of albums that can generally only be considered 'fucking awesome'. Modern recording technology being what it is, the internet making it far too easy for anyone to distribute music, and the trickle down effect from the garbage being pushed around by the bigger labels has made me sceptical about anything being released these days that can't be backed up by at least half a dozen previous albums showing that the band in question actually does have some understanding of what makes good metal. This said, understand how good a band has to be for me to gleefully wonder about when their next recording is coming out when all they've recorded previously is a 14 minute demo from three years prior; and then consider that I pestered one of the guitarists from Begrime Exemious something like every other day for a month about just when the hell their new EP was going to be available. If it sounds like I had incredibly and perhaps unrealistically high hopes for this recording its because I did and for damned good reason. The material from the aforementioned demo was a tempest of a style of blackened death metal thats rare, and even more rarely done well. While not so far off the beaten path that it couldn't be recognized as black/death metal it struck a balance between the two most musicians wouldn't dare to tread and did it with such a combination of brute force and finesse one had to wonder who the hell could be mad enough to come up with such fantastic music.
The problem with these kinds of expectations and pre-conceived notions about what you're about to hear as you're preparing to listen to a CD is that you inevitably end up biased about any new material that strays from what you expected. This of course makes reviewing incredibly difficult when you become aware of your own bias and try to work around it which often times becomes an exercise in futility. It took me an incredibly long time to decide just what the hell I thought about this album, as despite the material all being masterfully written, executed, and recorded I couldn't help but think there was something missing although I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was. There was nothing flawed about the music to be found and still I had the feeling that the band had taken a step forward followed by two steps back. I have since come to the conclusion that this is actually one step to the side, and two leaps forward really showcasing just what the band is capable of across multiple styles all of which are presented naturally and forcefully. While most musicians struggle to write music outside of a single style with which they're familiar and comfortable, leaving the final work coming across as strained and poorly written there are no such issues on this album. BE come across as being masters of not only their domain, but also neighbouring domains fortunate enough to have caught their attention.
Previously I compared BE's riff style as somewhere in the ballpark of bands like Demilich, Grand Belial's Key, and Weakling, in that it often reminded me of what makes those three bands unique but was pulled off in a very logical (and itself unique) way that didn't sacrifice force (or 'heaviness' to be more exact) in favour of solely being original which is often the case with those three. I still think thats a fair description but something here has progressed in a way that adds another dimension to the music entirely. I wouldn't be shocked in the slightest to hear that the band has been in close contact with another Edmonton band I hold very highly, Lust (in fact I think I hear Sabazios Diabolus at the end of the third track 'All Devourer'). Multiple parts of this album share similarities in how riffs are constructed and the manner which they are played, coming across as both frantic and panicked, but controlled and logical all at once. This creates an ideal atmosphere very rarely realized in either death metal or black metal in the past decade. The first track 'Arch Fiend' highlights this using riffs that would probably be at home on 'Darkness Descends' if Dark Angel started worshipping Satan and decided they weren't playing to the fullest of their abilities. The song comes together forming a maelstrom of sheer head banging bliss that intensifies and restrains itself perfectly in a fashion that makes sense but never resorts to pop-song structure or cheap hooks and catches. The following two tracks follow in the same foot-steps creating the same feel but manage to do so while making disturbingly well executed use of an often mid-paced approach which is a testament to the ability of the song-writers. The second track in particular stands out for how well its written, as while the pace has been slowed featuring a more oppressive doom metal feel it still retains the sort of atmosphere that made the much faster paced first track what it is. The third track meanwhile strikes a balance between the two in a manner that would be impossible to achieve for 99% of all metal bands to have ever existed. These three tracks are topped off with a well done 'Autopsy' cover that compliments the original material well leaving no doubt in the listener's mind that this recording is a flawless triumph of form and function. It leaves no doubt in my mind that in the dismal void left by thousands of insipid clone bands and useless musicians who are butchering and stagnating the metal genre this recording is a shining beacon of what metal can still be, even here in the year 2009.
For all the praise I have for this album I still haven't answered the question I raised earlier, is this as good as the original demo which got me so excited for it in the first place? To be perfectly honest I'm not sure one can compare the two beyond a merely subjective choice on which style is more appealing to the individual. The original demo was more of a raw thrash inspired romp through the carcasses of what death and black metal once were, forming something that while distinctly showing its origin was a strange amalgamation of the three. This recording meanwhile took the carcasses, reanimated them, exposed them to radiation, and then went on a rampage all its own. This recording stands as a sort of evolutionary step for the band more than a mere follow up to the previous album, and while it surprised me at first it ended up surpassing my expectations on all fronts. Every single aspect of what I loved on the 2006 demo is here in one form or another, and while the thrashier bits may have been substituted for a more death metal approach the atmosphere created remains the same which is the key to what makes this band so damned good. If you have any love for death or black metal from the early 90s you'd be a fool not to hunt down a copy of 'Set Ablaze The Kingdom of Abraham' as its recordings like this that highlight the continued potential for progression in genres that are often considered dead and stagnant.