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Music to fit the face - 92%

EzraBlumenfeld, January 24th, 2019

It's always interesting to hear the result when a black metal album has extremely high-quality production. It can sometimes succeed, as in the case of the gems among Behemoth's discography; but it also fails quite often, as best exemplified by Dimmu Borgir and Mayhem's new material. I find Abbath's eponymous debut to be a highlight among the well-produced black metal records.

Despite having departed from the legendary Immortal, guitarist and vocalist Abbath Doom Occulta clearly lost no faith in his ability to churn out high-quality music. He quickly put together a capable group of musicians and branded it with his own stage name, and they soon released their only album to date in 2016. While Abbath is by no means the coolest thing to ever happen to black metal, it certainly is a near-masterpiece of ferocity and raw power while also maintaining quality in both music and production.

The guitar parts themselves are naturally muddy, so it's a good thing the band opted for a clear tone so as to best show off the dark riffs. They truly sound heavy, and it seems that Abbath had no qualms about abandoning the rather confining standards of "trve" black metal. The drum parts are equally heavy, though quite authentic. Abbath's throaty, raspy growl caps it all off to make it truly sound evil.

If I had any complaint about Abbath, I would say it's a bit too short. With only eight songs plus two bonus covers, it doesn't exactly feel complete, especially in this day and age where a standard album can easily exceed ten tracks without seeming too lengthy. But overall, I think it's a quality album worthy of recognition; easily one of the most inspired black metal records of the past decade, I'm sure it will be remembered as a classic for many years to come.

Best songs: "Ocean of Wounds," "Count the Dead," and "Endless."

Alone, Abbath enters the breach once more - 75%

HeavyMetalMeltdownReviews, November 1st, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak)

Abbath is a black metal legend who needs no introduction, he forged his name with the Norwegian band Immortal. Immortal unfortunately split in 2015, but Abbath unperturbed announced that he would continue playing as a solo artist and in a squabble of playground standards, Immortal decided that they would continue without Abbath. This split, reformation and split once more into two camps has obviously caused some issues, the main big one being over the legality of the Immortal name.

So now in 2016 Abbath has bitten first in a vain attempt to get one over on his former band mates by releasing his eponymous solo album. With his self-titled album, Abbath sticks to what he knows and does best, it certainly isn’t a million miles away from the past releases by his former band. Along with his uniquely distinctive voice, Abbath continues the trend of the later Immortal albums by taking on the guitar duties as well as being joined by King and Creature to form the rhythm section. To do a true black metal album correctly, you have to get that production just right and with ‘Abbath’, Dag Erik Nygaard and Daniel Bergstrand have engineered a wall of sound in the true black metal style with a mass of distortion swamping everything in its path. This production allows the guitar of Abbath to swing wildly forward, sawing through the mix and when this is accompanied by King’s bone rattling bass and the relentless, technical drumming of Creature, it is no wonder why Creature is renowned on the drum tech and session musician circuit. When combined with the primal growl of Abbath, it only adds the icing on cake and as that growl stalks from the speakers, it suddenly reminds you of what made that initial Immortal sound in the heady days of the early 90’s.

As with any solo album, it is more than fine to be dubious with so many musicians releasing mediocre and sub-par solo albums featuring friends and guests. Thankfully, ‘Abbath’ doesn’t fall into this category and gives you a sense that Abbath is once more having fun, he hasn’t sounded this fresh and excited in over 20 years. The rejuvenated Abbath opens his gambit with the commanding ‘To War!’ coupled with an exceptionally catchy chorus, Abbath rips through the almost prophetic opener, coming to the realisation that he is back in the trenches where he once started.

However, it is the lead single of ‘Winterbane’ where Abbath shows his pedigree, he no longer needs the Immortal name to show that he is capable of creating a decent track. The follow up single to ‘Winterbane’ is the sublime ‘Count the Dead’. One of the peaks of ‘Abbath’, ‘Count the Dead’ contains a guitar solo which tears the album wide open, the skill that goes into that short space of time takes a mediocre song and transforms it into one of the best on the album.

Clocking in at 41 minutes, ‘Abbath’ will have you nodding your head to the beat all the way through and before you realise it, you understand that this album is quite relentless and it never lets up with ‘Abbath’ pushing forward with ‘Ashes of the Damned’, ‘Fenrir Hunts’, ‘Root of the Mountain’ and unlike a lot of his heavy metal peers, it is great to see Abbath sticking to what he knows. Abbath doesn’t need to ‘try something different’ or have to use the phrase ‘it was just a phase I was going through’, if you know Abbath, you know what you’re getting and that is certainly not a bad thing.

Abbath doesn’t need to stray from what he knows and this album is a great first effort as a solo artist. Once more, Abbath has shown that he is totally capable of releasing a decent black metal album full of great songs. However, if ‘Abbath’ proves anything, it is that he doesn’t need the Immortal name to sell records.

Better Than Average But Far From Great - 70%

JackOfAllBlades, January 9th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Limited edition, Digibook)

It must be strange to be Abbath. Normally, an artist with such an impenetrable back catalog would have no trouble making the jump to solo stardom. But in the realm of black metal, any given project must prove itself cold and desolate enough to garner any acclaim at all - even genre stalwarts can go from icon to pariah if they stray too far from the beaten path (or follow it too closely). And on his eponymous debut, Abbath aims straight for the black hearts of his old-school fans.

Some of these fans may, however, be alienated right out the gates. Though Abbath's name is well-revered, in tow is King Ov Hell, whose reputation among black metallers is... controversial. And although King contributed nothing to songwriting, one can't help but wonder if the record will fall prey to the same paint-by-numbers 'kvlt' riffage that has plagued his other projects.

Many of these fears will be almost certainly quelled by the music itself. Though the 21st century production values and C standard guitars keep a comfortable distance from the genre's 90s roots, this is undoubtedly black metal. Comparisons to Immortal are inevitable and entirely understandable - similar tactics are employed all throughout, to similar effect. Hallmarks like tremolo guitars and blast beats are used more sparingly than expected, but this serves the album well - with nigh 20 years of black metal following one tried-and-true formula, the change of pace is more than welcome.

Another welcome change is found in the lyrics. Without Demonaz beside him, Abbath wisely chose to outsource his lyrics once more. Every word on this album was penned by one Simon Dancaster, who breathes new life into old themes with literate, almost poetic lyrics. Demonaz' image-rich lyricism was appropriate, but nothing exceptional. Dancaster weaves great tales of violence and valor, featuring couplets like "Necrotic lord, bless our chains / Baptize heathen blood in flames".

Unfortunately, one of Abbath's worst offenses is that the music tries and fails to match the grandeur of the lyrics. Brassy keyboard flourishes come out of nowhere and sound absolutely stupid and misplaced. Occasional clean guitar breaks try to add drama and emotional depth, but appear so abruptly that their effect is completely nullified. One such break, in "Winterbane", resembles the Immortal classic "Blashyrkh (Mighty Ravendark)" far too closely to be a coincidence, but not closely enough to qualify as a purposeful quotation.

The difficulty in matching the lyrical atmosphere to its musical counterpart seems to be that, though this is black metal, the emphasis is on the 'metal'. Pinch harmonics and blue-note chord progressions keep the sound strangely rooted in rock, a sound that is rightly avoided by most black metal bands. In fact, the closest that the album comes to classic black metal is on "Count the Dead", which itself is punctuated by ill-fitting interludes that sometimes resemble mainstream metalcore.

Though the metalcore comparisons stop there, Abbath suffers from another malady all too common in mainstream metal singers - he's good at one vocal style, but keeps trying others. His screamed vocals are three steps above the pained croak that he became known for, and a little reverb goes a long way in getting him to sound like the tortured shrieker the music demands. But when he tries to implement clean vocals, it's hard to listen. His voice is nasal and ugly, like a hair metal yowler's worst tendencies multiplied by ten. Any clean-sung parts here would have been better left to a guest singer, one whose decades-long specialty has not been a violent war on their larynx.

A guest sound engineer wouldn't have hurt either. I'm no purist, and in my ears the crystal-clear production values do nothing to hurt the album's atmosphere. But amidst constant walls of guitar sound, Abbath's vocals have a nasty habit of bobbing up and down in the mix. King's bass is all but inaudible for the majority of the disc, and though Creature's drums sound mostly good, his bass drum sounds like a piece of paper struck with a pencil. I'm all for a fat, bassy kick drum tone, but a little treble could go a long way in tightening up the sound.

Rounding out the album's failures is the inattention to detail regarding the track list. "To War!" is a perfectly suitable opener, but a dramatic track like "Winterbane" shouldn't have come up so early in the album. "Endless" is an entirely underwhelming closer to the album proper, featuring a short fadeout on a less-than-interesting riff; if there was ever a place for a clean guitar, this is it - not in the middle of an otherwise pounding metal song.

At the root, it seems that there are three conflicting Abbaths. First is Abbath the musician, a black metal mainstay whose late-career reinvention is at best ill-advised. Next is Abbath the band, a collection of musicians with relatively disparate musical trajectories despite the base commonality of extreme metal. And finally there is Abbath the album, a superficially solid debut that can't decide just what it's trying to do. If Abbath can reconcile his obvious skill set with his loftier goals (and his backing band), his sophomore effort could very well see massive success. For now, we are left with a perfectly acceptable album, bubbling just beneath the surface of the greatness it could have achieved.

Forgettable continuation of a great legacy. - 59%

ConorFynes, August 20th, 2016

In my eyes, the notion of Abbath as Immortal began with At the Heart of Winter back in 1999. Losing Demonaz as the guitarist could have meant the end for the band. In a sense, it was the end for the vicious Immortal people knew. Without him, there would never be a chance of another Pure Holocaust, but the transition wasn't without its benefits. As a guitarist, Abbath put a much greater emphasis on distinctive hooks and riffs than the blackened whirlwind that characterized the band's first four records. At the Heart of Winter proved to be an unexpected gem, fusing the trademark wintry atmosphere with clever writing and brilliant riffs across the board.

Looking back, it's a shame that an Abbath-led Immortal never held up to that par. Sons of Northern Darkness was a self-referential joke with enough quality riffs to keep people smiling. By the time of All Shall Fall a decade following At the Heart of Winter, it would be a major stretch to call the band black metal at all, although the genre's casual fans are still more than content to refer to them as the definitive BM act. Ever since Abbath took up Immortal's guitar duties, the band had become an extension of himself. With that out of the way, I see no issue in thinking of this as another Immortal album, although I think that only serves to amplify my disappointment toward it.

Where an album under a new flagship name could have taken any form Abbath wanted (after all, the band's named after him!) it's pretty disappointing that Abbath sounds like a second part to All Shall Fall some seven years ago. While I thought that album was decent enough, it certainly wasn't the direction I wanted to hear the band heading in. It's Immortal alright; it's just the kind of Immortal I could get excited about.

Although the upbeat All Shall Fall style is less interesting today than it was in 2009, fans may take solace in the fact that the band sounds scarcely different in spite of the major lineup overhaul. Kevin Foley (also from Benighted, listed here as "Creature") offers an appropriately energetic drum performance, both live and on the record. I find it darkly hilarious that King (ex-Gorgoroth) is pulling bass duty for this album, as it seems like he's around to snatch up the pieces whenever there's a Second Waver name dispute afoot. As a band however, nothing ill can be said of Abbath. The main man's vocals sound as charismatic and about as raspy as they ever have. Of course, most of the focus lies on the riffs themselves. At this point, Abbath's greatest talent is his ability to pen consistently catchy riffs within the (increasingly loose) confines of the black metal style. Abbath seems like it was constructed purely around this talent, and while I'm sure the same could have been said about At the Heart of Winter at the time, the riff emphasis here seems to the point where it undercuts all other facets of the sound. Creature's drumwork is strangely quiet beneath the guitars, and the trademark wintry atmosphere is missing from all but a few of the songs.

There are gems on the album. "To War" is a solid opener, and "Root of the Mountain" comes much closer to the grim sound I'd like to hear from Abbath. Expectations were not incredibly high for Immortal's latest incarnation, and the result is appropriately unremarkable. The riffs are solid and the pacing's enjoyable, but you've got to ask yourself at what point Abbath lost touch with the essence that made his earlier work so good. Rest assured, it happened long before the name itself finally changed. For better or worse, I'm a lot more interested to see what will be made of the other, quieter half of Immortal in the near future.

Originally written for Heathen Harvest Periodical

Abbath: Abbath - 88%

Never_Enough, June 22nd, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Limited edition, Digibook)

I have a weird relationship with black metal. I don't quite consider myself a fan of the genre, especially the Norwegian variety of it. Even though I admire the primitive nature in the instrumentation and the incredibly fast tempo, I'm turned off by the inaudible production, shrieked vocals, and complicated song structures. My contempt for this music also carries over to the first wave which many of my peers consider that movement as a force to be reckon with. However, I find myself increasingly becoming a fan of its many subgenres. Not the stillborn abominations like blackgaze or symphonic black metal, oh hell no. But subgenres like blackened death metal and black 'n' roll. The latter of which is what we'll be tackling today.

The most striking thing about this album is that there's not a single bad song on here. At worst, you have "Fenrir Hunts" which, although it has a nice drive to it, suffers from being average filler. When compared to the astounding tracks on display here, this average song gets easily shunned. Such a sad fate for a song whose only crime was being ordinary. Those astounding tracks being songs like "Winter Bane". Arguably the best song of this album. Once the song begins, it is headbanging central. That is until the last quarter of the song where Abbath's screams fade into a tranquil acoustic guitar with a spoken word passage. The transition is not that jarring, actually. It's sort of a break after the brutality that preceded it. Overall, it serves as the perfect tune to a battle during the bleakest, coldest storm of the century. Does a better job at it than "To War" which has too much build up and isn't concise enough. You'll be doing yourself a favor by skipping to the 1:27 mark.

While this album is unmistakably black metal, it has this indescribable feeling of bravado. I assume that comes from the simple, hard-hitting, drumming by Kevin Foley (brother of Matt Foley). What an excellent drummer. He knows exactly when to employ rapid double bass and then do a complete 180 to a simple hard rock style. He'll be keeping that simple rhythm on "Count the Dead" and then immediately start pounding on the bass drum. There's no flash or "intricate" fills. Just straightforward drumming.

Now, how can I go this long without going into detail on the man of the hour? Abbath is flat-out wonderful on this album. He provides the missing element to the encompassing sense of bravado. Although, he's not too encompassing. He deservedly gets the most focus yet he also passes the attention onto his talented companions. Guitar-wise, he's pretty solid. He crafts these heavily distorted riffs built around the strong rhythm section. He doesn't care to provide any fancy solos, but this album isn't about that. Vocal-wise...okay, that's a different story. It's not distracting, but it certainly needs improvement. His performance is akin to clearing the phlegm out of your throat in the morning, but with an alien's voice. The biggest problem is that his vocals lack power. He sings at the same mezzo forte level throughout the entire record. What should be yells of defiance, turn into Abbath just projecting more towards the listener. Then again, no one will go into this album looking for exemplary vocal dexterity nor are they asking for that. This isn't that big of a grievance and it doesn't snuff out Abbath's personality.

Overall, I strongly recommend this album. This is certainly a different direction for Abbath. A direction that I such as many others approve of. This album produces many fast and memorable songs that are highly accessible to those unfamiliar to the genre. It's definitely a strong debut for this band and leaves me excited for what the band has to other next. On top of that, it's a strong contender for album of the year.

Bonus: The limited edition comes with two tracks; both of them are covers. The first is a cover of Judas Priest's "Riding on the Wind". Now, I actually really like this cover. It captures the spirit and charismatic attitude of the original. Even in a subgenre as dark as black metal, it still conveys a feeling like no one can stop you. The more heavily distorted instrumentation works rather well. Hell, Abbath even plays K.K. Downing's solo. Speaking of Abbath, I know how contradictory this will sound, but his vocals are perfect for this song. He does less of the phlegm predator style and utilizes something more akin to shrieking. His vocals mimic Rob Halford's, but are more twisted and sounds like the cries of terror from a banshee. I mean, he still isn't singing from the diaphragm and has no power, but it's a step in the right direction. Actually, he manages to pull off this wicked screech, so you can tell that he's really trying to improve. Still, I prefer the Judas Priest version, but this certainly gives it a run for its money. The other song is frankly pointless. It's a cover of "Nebular Ravens Winter" by Immortal. You may be thinking to yourself, "Why would you cover your own song?" Well, I don't fucking know. Why don't you ask Abbath, because I can't see the logic behind that. The song really has no point in existing. It doesn't do much to stand apart from the original except for the improved production. That and the omission of a couple screams which again, I don't know why Abbath wouldn't do those screams. I guess if you liked the original, but hated the lo-fi production, then this would be for you and your vagina. For me, I'll pass. In conclusion, I'd recommend the limited edition just for "Riding on the Wind".

Listen to the opener and the second half - 63%

Caleb9000, April 30th, 2016

This album makes me wonder if Abbath is just trying to do something else so that his music will not be compared to that of Immortal. Some of this just tries so hard to be original that it loses touch with charisma. A lot of this is boring. Not that just because something is not catchy, it is worthless. A lot of my favorite music doesn't really stay stuck in your head. This is just an overall album that I would describe as "meh". I was really hoping for something that I could label as "great". I wanted to be able to say, "He doesn't need Immortal to help him"... but this album could be used as a rather decent argument against that. Well... the first half at least. The second half of this album is actually very good. The riffs are epic and can either pound the listener right into the ground or give them very strong feelings of epicness. The rest of the music is there to complement this. It is very riff-based. I wish that there was just a little bit more variety within the other instrumentation, but it is still extremely enjoyable, especially the sixth track of the album, "Root of the Mountain". But the first half, with the exception of "To War", is almost entirely void of anything interesting. There are some good riffs here and there, but they can't save it from the rest, which is basically one big bore.

I would guess that the main problem with it is that the riffs possess little to no substance whatsoever. They have practically nothing to be remembered. I have listened to it three times and I can only remember the opener. I remember picking up a little bit of a Children Of Bodom-ish influence from it. That song sounds quite a lot like something off of "I Worship Chaos", which was a very good album. This song has a pummeling main riff that was stuck in my head for days. But the rest seems like useless filler. It does nothing special with the guitar work and everything else is there to simply keep it going. The guitar is a false idol. Abbath can do far better than this. Anyone who has heard his riffing on the previous four records by Immortal knows that. I can't necessarily find an actual big issue with the songwriting, all that I can say is that it's ungodly boring and very non-captivating.

The second half is where the fun begins (a little too late). It starts with a huge highlight, "Count the Dead". Very memorable riffing and the drums are basically all of the ingredients for the mammoth that crawls within this track. Every blast beat sounds as though another victim was shot in the head and then thrown into a pile. I do not like the overall production of the drumming, but I will cover that in a little bit. Abbath's vocals are absolutely ferocious on this track. His snarl sounds quite a lot like a demon commander giving orders (for lack of better description). It can't quite compete with the wailing that he bestowed upon the Immortal track, "One by One", but it is still very well-done. But my favorite track would have to be, "The Root of the Mountain". This is Abbath's songwriting style that we all know and love. Epic riffs and pummeling drums fill this track to the brim. As furious as this track is, I would have to say that the best moment of it (as well as the entire album) would have to be the one towards the end, containing no percussion. One of the best riffs that I have heard this year is present, as well as some very sorrowful, even MOURNFUL harsh snarling from Abbath. It sounds like a big battle was just waged, then lost. "Eternal" is a very fast and memorable track, but it has a riff that is very similar to the one in the opener. It is a very good track, just not quite at the same level.

Now I wish to get my thoughts of the drum-production off of my balls. The drumming is done furiously, just the way that it should be, but the fact of the matter is that the production has tamed it back much too far. At certain times, they sound like they are made of fucking cardboard! Black metal has never been very heavy, but this doesn't live up to the rest of the music. I wanted to be killed as a whole, not just my interest. This is by far the most annoying thing about the music. At least the rest of the negativity isn't less than bland and boring. The aggressive nature of the actual drumming itself simply cannot save it. With the latter portion of the Immortal discography had a very loud and thick drum production (just like the rest of the music), this is loud, thick and plastic. It only makes up for it with the way that the drums are played during the second half of the album. This album would have at least been given a review score in the later 60s, possibly even the early 70s (though probably not) if it had not been for this.

This is an album that you have to divide into two parts to not dislike as a whole. While the songwriting is great in certain areas, the rest is pretty much like an unpopular TV dinner. People buy it because the picture looks good and the history (possibly the brand, when being compared in this case) sounds promising, but when you consume it, it is bland as hell. It was actually hard for me to even review this album, as some of it was just so unmemorable. You do not know the definition of struggle until you attempt to recall what you have heard in the weak areas of this record. What I desperately hope for is that Abbath Doom Occulta himself realizes just how superior the second half of what he has delivered is and he attempts to make music at that level on his next release. But here, it seems as though he was trying so hard to take his music to the "next level", that he forgot how to make the music interesting enough for his listeners. This is by no means a bad album, but it isn't all that good either. I feel as though I would have enjoyed this a bit more if the track listing consisted of a good track, then a boring track. In that case, I feel as though I would have been much quite a lot more captivated the whole way through this record. Although "The Root of the Mountain" is one of my favorite songs to be released this year, overall, I see this record as a highly inconsistent release which contains high disappointment.

Catastrophe...equals opportunity! - 88%

hells_unicorn, April 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak)

The rather paradoxical notion quoted above from Michael Douglass in his cult mid-2000s film King Of California is a rather fitting way to view Abbath's recent solo album, which by any other name would be an Immortal album. It's the consequence of what could be viewed as a calamity, as one half of the creative force behind one of black metal's seminal acts has cut ties with the others, bring in questions of whether or not two equal or lesser beasts would emerge from the carnage. If the solo album put out by Demonaz several years ago (perhaps foreshadowing some growing tension between he and his longtime friend, further bolstered by the recent end of their other single album collaboration in I) indicates the future of the Immortal name or is succeeded by a similar quality of follow up, this would speak to his end of things being kept up. But in Abbath's case, the answer has been given with a resounding yes with the release of his self-titled solo album a little earlier this year, so much so that it wouldn't be a stretch to argue that Abbath took the soul of Immortal's sound with him when he left.

The association of Abbath with the rest of Immortal's body of work makes sense from a stylistic standpoint, as the gradual evolution from a low-fidelity nod to early Bathory in the early 1990s grew into something more modern and brutal in demeanor, while still keeping the general aesthetic of the original 2nd wave sound in view. It approaches things with the same degree of simplicity and bite as the last two Immortal albums, drawing particularly close to the pounding, war anthems character of Sons Of Northern Darkness, and upping the ante a bit in said department. This is an album where the atmosphere serves to bolster the impact factor, resulting in something a bit less ethereal and mellow compared to the band's middle era, opting for occasional keyboard and sampled orchestral sounds that are more loud and percussive, thus playing into the dominance of the rhythm guitars. While Immortal has always placed a sizable emphasis on riff work, this is arguably the first album that could be seen as totally riff driven, thus delving even further into the death/thrashing sound that first began to creep into things on Blizzard Beasts.

While the same setting of a winter-steeped wasteland is implicit in this album, things are geared all but entirely towards the battles and carnage going on within it, rather than taking regular occasions to stroll the field and be immersed by what surrounds it. Leading off the grim tale is "To War", which enters to the sampled sound of a marching battalion and rides a chunky, mid-paced thrashing groove for the first minute and a half before the blasting beats and snowy barrages commence. The militant, almost Marduk-inspired character of this song proves to be more the rule than the exception where the rest of the songs are concerned, with the closing song "Eternal" going so far as to function as a more frenetic version of the opener, whereas "Ashes Of The Damned" and "Fenrir Hunts" offer up equally extreme assaults with the fury of a thousand winter storms. Even occasional coasting, restrained sections that come into play on "Winter Bane" and "Root Of The Mountain" have more of a driving character to them and serve more as slower points in the battle than momentary glances at the distant snow-covered horizons, though on both songs there are some occasional hints of the Viking-like character that would go with a more aesthetic coldness as heard on At The Heart Of Winter.

Essentially Abbath has amassed a well-oiled machine of a band here, though sadly one that would largely comprise temporary contributors. The drum work is perhaps the most noteworthy feature after the riff work, being handled by recently departed Benighted drummer Kevin Foley (aka Creature) and having a very war-like, tom heavy and machine gun precise character, as if the fictional warriors on the frozen battlefield have taken on some weapons of modern warfare. Along for the ride is some fancier than usual bass work out of King Ov Hell, which helps to further deepen the sound and pull it away from the stereotypical 90s sound that Immortal still carried some some extent in the 2000s, not to mention add an additional layer of chaos to an already frenzied arrangement. The most restrained element at work here is the lead guitar work, which is almost exclusively handled by a guest guitarist in Ole Farstad, who is a bit more precise and idiomatic in his approach than Abbath. The culmination of it all is a solid array of songs, though not quite matching the magic of Blizzard Beasts and At The Heart Of Winter. Fans will be pleased, detractors will detract, and all eyes will be on what Demonaz does either under his own name or under Immortal's as a response to this.

Grim. And. Frostbitten. - 90%

madironmaiden, February 10th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Limited edition, Digibook)

I knew this album was going to be good. After hearing the three tracks Abbath had released, I was sure this was going to be a killer album. In fact, as soon as I had finished reviewing "Ashes of the Damned", I pre-ordered the album. I bought the collector box set with all the goodies in it. It arrived four days before the release date, but since I absentmindedly had shipped it to my parents' house... I had to wait until the actual release date to listen to it (because I refused to listen to the album online before I had the CD). But it was so worth the wait and the money.

Abbath's creative ability is very obvious in this album. Abbath is clearly a very creative, talented individual, even without Immortal. And although I miss him being in Immortal, I am more than pleased with his solo work. Each track is heavy and his vocals keep the grim atmosphere. This new album's sound is actually somewhat similar to the sound of Abbath's other solo project, I. His work is not so blackened and harsh as Immortal's work is, but the heaviness and grimness make it unique and still enjoyable to listen to. Those who prefer a much darker, blacker sound may be caught by surprise, but will probably end up listening through the whole album. My favorite track is probably "To War!". I liked the heaviness and intensity of the track, honestly. It was five and a half minutes of pure, intense Abbath-ness (for lack of a better term). I also liked "Ashes of the Damned", as I have mentioned in previous reviews. It's still one of my favorite tracks off the album. I think it appeals to me because it is experimental, yet everything you would expect from Abbath. The entire album is the same way. Abbath experiments with new elements while keeping his music as grim and frostbitten as you would expect and hope for. Abbath has certainly made his split with Immortal work and has allowed his creativity and musical genius to continue into this new project.

Abbath did a cover of Judas Priest's "Riding On The Wind". I have a few things to say about that. I liked the guitar style and the fact that although it sounded like the original, it had its own unique touch to it. However... Abbath and Rob Halford do not have similar vocal types at all. Halford has much more range with his voice and has a style that is impossible to replicate. Abbath did better than a lot of other vocalists who try to cover Priest. He already is accustomed to doing harsher vocals. But he simply does not have the same range and fluidity that Rob Halford has with his voice. Abbath is definitely a black metal vocalist and not a traditional metal vocalist. But he did do as well as he could with what he has, and he did very well with the music itself.

Overall I am impressed by this album and absolutely love it. I give it a 9/10, only because of the cover track. If Abbath had done a track that was a little better suited to his range and vocal style, I think I may have been able to give this album a 10/10. The creativity and brilliance of this album completely blew me away. My hope is that Abbath continues with this project and keeps demonstrating his musical genius. He and his band mates do such good work, and I would love to hear more work from them. The album is suitably grim and frostbitten, and I can't wait for more.

*originally from my tumblr*

Absolutely Incredible - 98%

Mercyful_kill1245, January 29th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak)

When Abbath left the legendary Immortal, I was heartbroken and quite sad. Immortal has been one of my favorite bands for years and has influenced me so much musically with his playing and songwriting. Luckily, as fate would have it, I would continue to get my fix in the form of Abbath's new self-titled band and holy shit does he deliver. From the first live track, Fenrir Hunts, to the full album, Abbath's solo project is absolutely incredible. That is enough on the background of the situation at hand, let's talk about the whole album.

As you can tell, Abbath is continuing in the musical direction that Immortal was headed. The black thrash combo is one of the best and Abbath is quite adept at making it. I will say that I absolutely hated the first riff on the album in the song To War! at first. It sounds so modern to me and I wondered if the album had more riffs like that. Luckily, after numerously listen to the album, I began to like the riff because it does groove very well and the double bass over it does make it sound like a march, much like the opening of the song. Anyway, right after that riff, To War becomes an amazing song full of speed, aggression and pretty decent lyrics. The drumming is blazing and compliments the guitar quite well. Also, on just a musicianship note, the drumming on this album is incredible with the precise, gut pounding snare and cymbal work and the precise double bass. It sucks that Creature, Aka Kevin Foley, won't be in the band anymore. Additionally, Ole André Farstad does a great job on the songs where he pulls leads. Of course, with almost all black metal solos, save Ice Dale, there is a good amount of slop thrown in there but, it fits well with the chaotic nature of the album. Lastly, King actually has some pretty cools bass lines like in Winterbane and Root of the Mountain. It is reminiscent of Bob Daisley bass lines from Blizzard of Oz with ascending bass lines and what sounds like slap bass.

Now, onto the music itself. From To War to Endless, the album is just incredible. Abbath sounds super into the music vocally, which is great considering that his vocals at times can sound bland and every song has a riff or two, in addition to the other great riffs, that makes you just go wow, that is insane. Back to the vocals briefly, Abbath is screaming like an animal into the mic. The closest comparison would probably be Sons of Northern Darkness. Moving to the actual structure, the album has many blazing fast songs in it such as To War! and Ashes of the Dammed but, along with those songs, it has a few just to tone it down a bit like Root of the Mountain and Ocean of Wounds. This provides great variety and keeps the listener coming back for me. Also, the album, like almost all black metal, has a very dark atmosphere around it. It has that signature feel, grit, and tone associated with black metal. However, the album's production is so well done that it is able to cut through the murkiness just enough so the album doesn't become inaudible and allow all parts of the band to be heard properly. Another high point in the album that I feel was often overlooked with Immortal is the epic nature of the songs. The lyrics are done quite well and parts in songs like Winterbane and Ocean of Wounds make the listener feel like as if he marching into battle, waiting to face death or glory. Or, he is on an epic journey, full of danger with many twists and turns. He can't talk about Blashyrhk anymore. So, he just went ahead and make songs about war and other aspects of winter.

The album ends in an unexpected way. Right after Endless, Riding on the Wind - a Judas Priest cover song - comes on, and while it's a cool enough song it's unusual to end an album with a cover song. have always hated when bands do this because I just don't see why you wouldn't end with your album with your own song. Luckily, the re-recording of the Immortal song, Nebular Ravens Winter, comes in and makes the album end on a perfect note. Why did he do this? Maybe to keep the song forever? Or, maybe he wanted to show to he is better? I really don't know but, it's quite good. In fact, it is probably better than the original piece. The production is better, Abbath sounds cooler, the drums are more hard hitting and it just sounds heavy, mainly due to the tone.

I do have a few complaints with the album, it lacks the cleans that I love in Immortal. Winterbane and Ashes have the only cleans on the album. They are really badass to listen to and Abbath is great at making cleans but, I just want more myself. It has a lot to do with the atmosphere surrounding his cleans. They are evil, dark, yet beautiful at the same time. They are so complex in how they are played and the album needs some more of these. Also, as stated above, while I like the covers, I would never end with them. I feel like it takes away from the music and makes the album end on someone else's work. My last complaint is kind of a dumb one but, I miss Abbath's solos. I know they are always out of key and sound questionable at times, however, they fit the music so well and I really enjoy them.

On a concluding note, the album is literally just a continuation of what Immortal was to be. Abbath should hit home with all the old Immortal fans that will take the time to listen to this album. I hope he continues with he is doing and I cannot wait to see what is next.

(Just for the mod, after heavy editing from the workshop and my friend, who is an English major, I feel like this is now satisfactory. Thanks for the help. Cheers)

Between Three Bands - 77%

autothrall, January 29th, 2016
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Season of Mist (Digipak)

I'm probably in the minority of folks who hoped against all hope that the eponymous Abbath solo album would be far more geared towards the stylistic choices of I's Between Two Worlds rather than Immortal itself. Not that I've got much of a problem with this duo's mainstay; beyond the drama generated within the 'brand' over the last few years, they're an ace group and I've enjoyed nearly every single full-length they've released dating back to when I had just gotten out of high school. But that I album was really a grower, to the extent that I'm far more likely to break that out for another spin than anything else Abbath has participated in throughout his career, including monsters like Sons of Nothern Darkness, Pure Holocaust and At the Heart of Winter. To that extent, I've had to come away from this s/t mildly disappointed, because while Abbath and King don't wholly ignore that transcendent, moody epic/heavy metal sound here, this is far more of a spiritual successor to All Shall Fall, Immortal's last, somewhat divisive album.

Now, I happened to skew heavily towards a positive reaction to that, so this might have proven a win/win either way, but I came away with mixed feelings. Half the tracks here are great, the others just alright. It's about 50% inspired by Sons of Northern Darkness and that effort's simpler, more mighty songwriting structures; another 25% giving passing nods to the more extreme, older school wheelhouse the band used to dwell within, and that final quarter definitely captures the more shining, airy, windy heavy metal feel with the higher pitched chords, flashy leads and immersion. As you can imagine, this produces a pretty wide swath of dynamics, and indeed the tunes can range from blasted arctic gales to measured sojourns across the ice-fields. Abbath sticks largely to his snarled voice, which works well in conjunction with the chords and atmosphere but doesn't resonate with me nearly as much as that gritty Quorthon-like clean from Between Two Worlds. The drums are performed by Creature (aka Kevin of Benighted) with thunderous aplomb, at any pace necessary, with strong use of the toms and double bass rumblings suitable for the perceived Norse warfare inherent in all the band's ambiguous lyrics, and King's bass lines are at worst subdued beneath the rhythm guitar; at best grooving along with classic, infectious heavy metal pacing on tunes like "Root of the Mountain".

The rhythm guitars strongly resemble a hybrid of Sons of Northern Darkness and Between Two Worlds, with some higher range, less predictable choices of notation. Not a ton of tremolo picking used here, the emphasis is very often on solid chords and cleaner accompanying lines to give it that vast, folksy feel I so enjoyed on the I debut. There are a few riffs I would not expect, such as the opener of the album, which feels like a mesh of Chaos A.D. era Sepultura thrashing groove with some Voivod dissonance, but after a few minutes it all seems to fall in line and Abbath is trampling over well-trodden ground, making safer songwriting decisions that genuinely pan out into solid if rarely remarkable material. Leads are spurious and sensible, never too wanky or misplaced, and often functioning the greatest when they resolve to very simple melodic lines. Lyrics evoke the belligerent 'catch-all' wintry mythological violence and glory the band is lauded for, but not without entertaining imagery that any fan of their mid to late 90s material will wax nostalgic over.

The mix is really well balanced, permitting the ballast of the rhythm guitars to shine without obscuring any other component, drums delivering a Sleipnir canter. Gallop. Trot. Charge. Abbath's ugly but often monotonous snarl seated well above the fray with appropriate reverb sending some of his lines to bounce off the roiling storm clouds that the listener will conjure up internally. At least three tunes I thought were excellent..."Root of the Mountain", "Winterbane" (which sounds like it could have been a Northern Darkness outtake) and the intense "Fenrir Hunts", which was my fave mirror to the older Immortal on the record. But there were certainly a lot of give or take riffing sequences throughout the remainder of the material that I hesitate to call this truly great. I think it's more loyal to his alma mater's theater of sound than the Demonaz solo album March of the Norse, to be honest, but I liked the pacing and aesthetic of that more. Abbath is an effective entry into the band's overall canon, but I feel like these guys might be squandering their creative impulses on too many samey projects to the point it could get confusing for the uninitiated. There's a lot of crossover of ideas, so I wish they'd just rein it in to Immortal and I, legal issues be damned.