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still amazing, but hard to stomach - 89%

crazpete, June 22nd, 2004

Warning: those who are new to the Abigor experience should not form opinions of this band based on this album. Please seek out Opus IV or Nacthymnen instead to see if you can enjoy their completely unique and chaos-ridden baroque approach to raw and intelligent black metal.

This is the most studio-intensive album Abigor produced in its prolific career. One begins this listen with some dark samples of semi-industrial noise, followed by a clear synth string passage seemingly from a horror film, which conflicts bizarrely with the trademark blurred and haphazard black metal sound one is used to from this band. And yet within a few seconds, the blitzkrieg of metal maelstroms to be expected from this band burst onto the cd. Two minutes into this, and you know you are still listening to a band that favors complexity over minimalism as dense slabs of metallic flourishes clash into one another with the chaotic madness now expected by this Austrian powerhouse. Equally cut within the brooding baroque riffs dripping with opaque harmony are more simple sections of almost headbang-inducing pace and construction. Trademark guitar trills embellish almost boring riffs, and soon enough this lumbering beast of contradictions of a band is at it again as raging passages of black metal are cut short by short synth breaks, only to come back thoroughly perverted as buzzing organic shapes of jazz-like chords and intervals, continuing the style they perfected with ‘Opus IV.’

Songs here are frayed puzzles of riffs: maddening passages of ethereal melody suddenly slam into forests of thick chordal confusion, unidentifiable noises and samples dart in and out of long meandering sections of melodic phrases which seem to amble forward on three different-sized legs. This album, as most of Abigor’s others do, demands a good stereo to even attempt to understand the obscure but obviously intentional riffs buried within riffs. If this album does channel the quintessence of Satan, the dark one wearing a crown of fire is more alien and complex than simple-minded acolytes of evil give him credit for.

Besides the cold and clear machinations of industrial noise and samples that seem to appear with no warning, this is a thin and tinny recording considering the layers of production that obviously went into this. The Abigor bass drum sound losses much of it’s characteristic clicks in favor of a fuller range, but this new more normal drum sound gets lost in the sharp thin buzzing clouds of guitar tone that permeate this album’s sonic aesthetic. Drums blast along at perhaps the fastest overall speed of the band’s long career, but this addition does not significantly change the dynamic of the album. Vocals become even more soaked in reverb than before (which one may have not thought possible) and become more effect than traditional voice. Among the cold and soulless atmosphere created here, this vocal effect works nicely, but the drums and guitar do not mesh well; competing instead of complementing.

Overall this album is still heavily guitar-driven. Three part counter-melodies and vast multi-instrument chords still dominate this, but while before they were executed with more variance and occasional heavy metal bravado, here they mostly are dark and thick jumbles of notes that are hard for the casual listener to pick apart, which makes this album less appealing to non-fans of Abigor than many of its other works. This is still an excellent listening experience, but one can no longer say Abigor manages to change and improve with each release. If anything, this seems like ‘Supreme Immortal Art’ with less melodic keys and more noise and ambiance.