Abbath - AbbathAs the old saying goes, you can legally coerce Abbath out of Immortal, but you can’t stop Abbath from up and taking Immortal with him in spirit. So instead of taking the ball and going home, Abbath proceeded to take the ball and dunk on the fools who think that Immortal can survive without him. Abbath is said dunk pressed to tape. Another old saying dictates that actions speak louder than words. Abbath’s rather loud action is to continue on making music, the remains of Immortal and juicy clickbait statements for the press be damned…in black, of course.

Having a career decades long and of a remarkably high quality, Abbath wisely sticks to his strengths. Much like knowing how good a rye and ginger is going to taste when you’re making one, this leads to a great kind of predictability that’s a feature instead of a bug. Expect the riff-centric, icy, and hugely melodic style of black metal that Immortal all but defined from At the Heart of Winter onward. Abbath has taken advantage of being untethered in name from his old band, and incorporates plenty of his classic metal and classic rock leanings from Between Two Worlds into the music. These bits don’t have entire songs devoted to them, but instead see riffs and licks pop up that sound like those old styles run through Abbath’s own unique filter. It’s recognizable but not jarring or even outside the realm of black metal, much like when “Tyrants” reinterpreted Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” and remained in the Immortal style effectively enough to become a latter-day fan favourite anthem.

Immediately noticeable is that the aggressiveness has been ratcheted up a bit from the hyper-melodic All Shall Fall, but Abbath features more obvious nods to I than were present on that disc. “Winterbane” begins on something akin to Sons of Northern Darkness’ more punishing moments and moves between this and a cross between All Shall Fall and Between Two Worlds with emphasis on the latter. Eventually it settles into a solid rock-infused melodic groove, with King ov Hell’s bass playing being a highlight; his tasty fills and fluid basslines remind of The Who’s John Entwistle, and he plays a much more active role in the music than Iscariah, Apollyon, or Abbath himself did on bass in the past. Companion pieces “To War!” and “Endless” are Abbath’s opener and closer respectively, revolving around an interesting merger of Blizzard Beasts and I in their shared central riff. It’s one of the most straightforwardly brutal riffs on the album, but it has a bit of a classic metal swagger to it. This repetition of the same riff doesn’t show a composer running short on ideas, but rather the exploitation of a good idea to its fullest potential. “Endless” has strong echoes of the triumphant “All Shall Fall” opening riff in its chorus, where the verse of “To War!” sounds like a cross between Immortal and Impiety. Both work alongside their shared main riff wonderfully.

Abbath 2016Abbath has no salient flaws, but that doesn’t make it a perfect record. As excited as many people were for this thing (myself included), I don’t think it will be held up as a true classic in years to come. The mastering job has the tendency to bury King’s more simplistic basslines backing the thrashier parts, and it doesn’t balance loudness, coldness, and bass clarity as well as Sons of Northern Darkness did. On the plus side, Creature’s drums sound significantly less Abyss Studios-ish than Horgh’s did in the past, and this compliments his comparatively looser playing nicely. “Ocean of Wounds” sounds like Abbath combined All Shall Fall with Inquisition’s token mid-paced, ritualistic tunes; this works for me because I like the work of Mr. Eikemo’s greatest disciples, but “Tyrants” it isn’t. It does break up the record nicely and set the stage well for the viciously hooky “Count the Dead” though, whose brief yet excellent melody improves on an already great track much like one four minutes into “One by One” did almost fifteen years before it.

Abbath is only forty minutes long, easy to replay, and will sit comfortably next to whatever your second or third favourite Immortal record from At the Heart of Winter onwards is. This begs the question of whether or not Abbath’s material is even necessary. I’ll throw my hat into the ring for yes, as the use of elements from his lengthy discography and his raucous musical influences makes for something at once familiar and fresh, anchored by one of the most unique guitar styles in the business. Abbath is more of a great thing, and that’s the only reason I need to keep revisiting this new realm beyond Blashyrkh throughout the year.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist Records
Websites: abbath.net | abbath.bandcamp.com | | facebook.com/abbath
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2016

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  • Reese Burns

    Come on…Less than 24 hours ’till this thing’s out, but every minute seems like a day! I’ve been waiting so long for this album it’s not even funny, just let it be out already!

  • mtlman1990

    I love this album

  • Hammersmith

    At the Heart of Winter is still, by far, the best black metal album I have heard.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      It’s so good. Solarfall has to be one of the best songs ever written.

    • BranMakMorn

      ATHOW was possibly my first or second BM album, when I was fresh to metal, sometime in 98 or 99. Ever since, I’ve tried to find something that would give out the same blend of rawness, icy melody and groove. It truly was a fucking masterpiece. I feel like this Abbath might grow on me, but I remain undecided. Still, gonna see him, Behemoth, Inquisition and Entombed in a few weeks — which is gonna be amazing!

      • Nagash

        I’m going to see that show this friday in Copenhagen. I’m lokking so forward to it :)
        In my eyes, Behemoth is going to pale in comparison to Abbath and Entombed :P

        • BranMakMorn

          I’m not as big a fan of Entombed, but yeah it’s a pretty great line-up isn’t it? BTW, if on Sat you feel like coming back here to report what Abbath played I would appreciate it :) I wonder how much Immortal stuff he’ll play…

          • Nagash

            I’ll try. Usually I’m not that good at remembering a setlist.

            I’m hoping for a little Motörhead though, since Lemmy just died and Abbath has his own Motörhead tribute band :)

    • John

      Just listened to it yesterday again while I worked out. Ended up putzing around after I was done just to finish the album off.

  • Antorus

    Awesome. Found this album to be very entertaining, very easy to listen to again and again. The length helps a lot but I did find myself wandering in a couple of songs. I really like the “I” elements in it, as you mention in the review. Solid buy but not a classic.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      That last sentence of yours is my opinion in a nutshell.

  • André Snyde Lopes

    I’ll have to buy this album rather than download a leaked version… I don’t, like, wanna, you know…… end up in jail, uhuhuhahahahaha!

    • MPC

      ba dum tss

      • André Snyde Lopes

        Just.. had to. Apologies.

    • That and

      ………………….Satan

      are the best black metal interview moments eva

      • Pimpolho

        But do you like your black metal interviews crispy or soft?

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Crispy. Always crispy.

  • sssgadget

    Damn this sounds really good. Listening to the full stream right now.

  • Hideous destructor

    …fifteen years after one by one? Thanks, now I feel old.

    Still, if this is going to be my second favourite immortal record, that means it’ll be as good as heart of winter or SOND which means I’m getting it.

  • Worldeater

    This is how i like it … familiar, fresh & frostbitten!

  • Here’s Johnny

    I would pretty much agree with this review, not a classic but really good album. 40 minutes that go by quickly, then you need to spin it again. Sign of a good album.

    Abbath might act the fool but he is actually a great rhythm player and he creates brilliant riffs, which obviously is one of the most important things in metal. His unique vocals are cool too and when he says something, it compliments the song. He never overdoes it.

    I bet these new songs will crush live.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      He’s definitely a great rhythm player. Him and Dagon are pretty much the best black metal guitarists going and alive today. Blasphemer is up there too in my opinion.

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        I would say that Dagon’s style owes a great debt to Abbath. Or that Dagon’s style is greatly influenced by Abbath’s. Or that Dagon sounds a lot like Abbath. You get my drift, right?

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Oh, absolutely. It’s a correct drift. Still, Inquisition is the best US black metal band, followed closely by Grand Belial’s Key.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I know Grand Belial’s Key have been around for a long time but I have never listened to anything from them. If they are so close to being as good as Inquisition then that’s something I have to fix soon.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            They’re basically Arghoslent’s sister band, so think of what they would sound like doing black metal and you’ve got a good idea of the sound. Tons of riffs and cool melodic leads, basically. Really good stuff.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            And here´s the part when we stop talking music and start talking ideology… Now I remember why I haven’t listened to Grand Belial’s Key.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Yeah, the Arghoslent relation can be hard to handle for some. For me, I just take Arghoslent/GBK’s views on more…sensitive matters about as seriously as I take The Faceless’ views on theology. Which is not seriously whatsoever.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            The way I see it is this: Hating a religion is OK, hating the followers of a religion is not. I mean, hating an idea is OK, hating people is not.

            I have catholic friends who won’t listen to Black Metal because they want to go to Heaven when they die. Seriously. Adult people.

            Grymm wrote a nice essay about the subject of “Separation of Art from Artist” and I guess sometimes I can do it, sometimes not.

          • John

            This is why I try to avoid learning about what individual band members believe. For example, Mastadon is a band I can totally get behind, especially their proggier stuff. But once I read an interview in a guitar magazine where they made racial comments (quite a few years ago), I never listened to them again. Ignorance is bliss. Even more so with song lyrics.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            Ignorance is bliss is one of my favorite sayings. As long as the lyrics aren´t trying to sway me over into some bullshit point of view I’m OK and I can ignore the band members’ beliefs.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            I don’t see a huge difference, honestly. They think their musical choices are a religious statement, and some people treat their musical choices as a political or ethical statement of sorts. Separating art from artist is just easy in my case, I suppose. It’s one of the more interesting topics in metal though, that’s for sure.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            I can separate art from artist as long as the artist does it himself. I mean, if the band/artist is not using the songs for proselytizing I don’t care. If the songs lyrics are manifestos for disgusting points of view, then I´m out.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Arghoslent’s lyrics seem more like a clever gimmick than anything. They’re offensive, meaning people will by and large check it out. They’re also callous retellings of events in history, which means that they’re can’t be labelled as mindless shock value or hate-filled manifestos. Are they particularly good historical accounts? No, but that’s beside the point. It’s a built-in defense and a way to make people mad, do their own lyrical thing, and get some publicity. Deicide’s lyrics were/are basically bait to make Christians get publicly mad, and I’ll happily listen to them even though it’s clear that it’s gimmicky. Doesn’t change the fact that they wrote some amazing tunes. Such is the case for Arghoslent as well for me.

      • Here’s Johnny

        Samoth, Ihsahn, Galder?

        • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

          Samoth is up there too, although he’s been more black/death for quite some time now. Ihsahn is more of an overall composer I think, he doesn’t quite have the riffs of Dagon or Abbath. He’s a better writer than a rhythm player, IMO. Galder is good, but he’s never impressed me in the way Abbath and Dagon have.

          • Here’s Johnny

            I guess Ihsahn is more a lead player though, what about the guy from Keep of Kallesin?

            Really? I would say Galder is better than both technically though, fab rhythm and leads.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            Obsidian C (Keep of Kalessin) has a cool style and is a fantastic player, but his leads are where he excels IMO, so I’d peg him as a lead player over rhythm even though he does both in the band, if that makes any sense. As for Galder, he’s a fantastic player but sometimes he comes across as background stuff in his rhythm playing in Dimmu Borgir. In Abrahadabra, the orchestra seemed to take the lead and him and Silenoz would just play stuff that sounded like black metal and call it a day. Old Man’s Child is good though, but personally I’d take Inquisition over them 100% of the time.

          • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

            When I think “Abbath” the first word that comes to mind is “Riffs”. When I think “Dagon” the first word that comes to mind is “Riffs”. I guess that’s exactly what Diabolus is talking about.

          • Pimpolho

            I would have to mention Teloch. He’s really good.

          • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

            He’s insanely talented. Saw him with play with Mayhem, and he nailed every damn part. Esoteric Warfare was good too. Nidingir’s riffs are nowhere near as good as Inquisition’s or Immortal’s though, in my opinion.

    • De2013

      Indeed these new songs do crush live!

  • Mr T

    There are so many old references and name dropping I lost track and have absolutely no idea what the album is going to be like from reading the review.

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      Basically like Immortal mixed with classic rock/classic metal references.

  • Alexandre Barata

    I can’t say I share the same opinion. This album sounds precisely as someone trying to recreate the sound of the last couple Immortal album’s but without the riffs, the energy. Sounds like a bad copycat, too monotone. It’s a no go for me, a pure 2/5

    • Yeah but that Winterbane song though

    • Diabolus_in_Muzaka

      To me it had more visceral energy than All Shall Fall, and I was a big fan of that one; it was “my” Immortal record, one that came out when I was a big fan already.

    • I’ll second this opinion. It’s a decent album, but not up to standards of most of Immortal’s albums, and many of the songs that do stand out have parts taken straight from Immortal.

      The other tracks that are more experimental (e.g. Mountains) don’t seem to work very well.

  • NDG

    I wish he would do another I album.

  • Grymm

    I’m happy that this album is incredible, but… I’m still mad at him for not cleaning my litter box when I was a wee child/kitten/thing.

    • You wot m8?

      I almost didn’t see you there, without your stylish, hat-adorned ursine.

      • Grymm

        I can fluctuate between “classy bear” and “shredding, crab-walking cat-dude” with little effort. ;)

        • [not a Dr]

          Just like Manimal!

        • You wot m8?

          CRAB WALK OF DEATH!

  • Christian P

    Colour me impressed….a great score and a timely review!

  • You wot m8?

    Deliciously old-school BM that seems to have made itself a nest in the new-school, and laid some blackened eggs. I approve.

  • ars_nihili

    Slightly off-topic, but I usually joke with my friends that our Black Metal names is just our given names ending with -th. This made me realize where ABBA-th comes from.

    • [not a Dr]

      [not a Dr]th doesn’t sound as kvlt as your instructions for blackmetallizing my name suggested.

  • I dont understand why the Abbath snow globe wasn’t available in time for Santa. Damn you Abbath.

    http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/merchandising/abbath-abbath-snowglobe

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Nice review,
    I’ve been waiting for this one, the teasers really got under my skin…
    Looks like 2016 is finally getting into gear, now where’s that Moonsorrow album?

    • brutal_sushi

      FOR REAL?! I have been spinning “Varjoina Kuljemme Kuolleiden Maassa” almost non stop as of late. Really looking forward to the new one.

      • Carlos Marrickvillian

        Fire Up dude… I think its set for an March / April release

  • IamRipper

    Mine came in the mail today. The collectors edition comes with an Abbath wristband. I know you’re all jealous.

  • Chuck Wallace

    I fucking love this album…. I’ll also gladly listen to their album if Demonaz and Horgh and whoever else put out an ‘Immortal’ album.

  • Jeremy Freeman

    This music has always been an acquired taste, one I could never develop a taste FOR. ughh

  • De2013

    The review made me curious to learn more. I was lucky enough to see him live last week. What an Epic record! All songs just stick from the first listen. Thanks for the review.

  • Dead1

    The music is good but it’s let down by those awful vocals. Someone ala K.K. from Destroyer 666 would have been a far better choice.

    • You wot m8?

      You have no idea who Abbath is, do you?