Abigail Williams // In the Absence of Light
Rating: 2.5/5.0 —Needs a lot more of something interesting.
Label: Candlelight Records
Release Dates: EU: 27.09.2010 | US: 09.28.2010
Symphonic black metal, a genre fraught with many a trap, snare and pitfall awaiting the unwary band that wants to go down this grim and icy road. Overproduction, bloating, too much keyboard, not enough keyboard, all can bring the metallic symphony to a halt faster than a black metal miser can frown. Even if one avoids all these dangers, the music must be interesting and compelling at its core or trouble ensues. It’s that last nagging little issue that drags down In the Absence of Light, the sophomore album by New York’s own Abigail Williams.
Before we go any further, it should be made clear, Abigail Williams is a professional, proficient three piece black metal band (and we will forgive their deathcore beginnings) and they have the musical chops to contend in this genre. There are moments across In the Absence where everything jells and things work very well. Sadly, across the eight tracks on offer, there just aren’t enough of these moments to elevate the album to the level of their peers. This is a pity, because Abigail Williams borrows liberally from these very peers for their style and delivery. Throughout In the Absence, you’ll hear definite echoes of Dimmu Borgir (the atmosphere and tempos), Cradle of Filth (vocalist Ken Bergeron sounds eerily similar to Dani Filth on many tracks) and even Borknager. There are the blast beats and keyboard drenched atmospherics one expects of the style, and the music lurches between frenzied and morose as it should, and fans of symphonic blackness will hear all the things they expect and want.
However, the problem that plagues In the Absence again and again, is that the music isn’t very compelling or interesting, and frequently comes across as bland and uninspired. Tracks like “Infernal Divide” capture a frigid feeling and ambiance, and you can hear the potential these guys have when it all comes together. Likewise, lead track “Hope, the Great Betrayer” has some quality moments, especially toward the back end of the song with wolves howling in the background. However, the balance of the album floats by without much to take notice of. It’s generally a bad sign when a reviewer has to keep going back to the beginning of a track because his mind wanders away and the song plays through without any impression whatsoever. Unfortunately, this was occurring with most of the tracks here, especially the last three, which just meander by without grabbing you.
There isn’t that “it factor”here that makes music memorable. This isn’t the fault of Peter Tatgtgren’s production which is clear, powerful and punchy enough without being too clear and too clean. This is plainly an issue with the boys in Abigail Williams needing to shore up their compositional skills to make the music more interesting and memorable.
With the musical ability clearly in place and capable of delivering, it now falls to these gentleman to work on writing and crafting songs that have more power and appeal. Until they accomplish this, Abigail Williams will be relegated to the second or third chair in the black metal symphony depth chart. How do you get to be the next Cradle of Filth? Practice, practice, practice.