Abhoria – Abhoria Review

Picking a new promo is an exciting occasion, because there’s no telling what the results may be. A few years back, I wandered far outside of my wheelhouse to snag a progressive blackened death metal release by a band called Ashen Horde. I had no prior knowledge of the band whatsoever, and I was enthralled by what I heard. But I had no idea that the great music was just the tip of the iceberg of what I would gain from the experience. Ashen Horde guitarist and main songwriter Trevor Portz reached out to me shortly after the album’s release, leading to a fun interview with both Portz and Ashen Horde (and Inferi, Equipoise, etc.) vocalist Stevie Boiser, and Portz and I have maintained frequent contact ever since. Early on, he told me about a more straightforward black metal project that he was working on called Abhoria, and as time went on, he shared the ups and downs as the project got signed by Transcending Obscurity, dropped due to the pandemic, and then resigned by Prosthetic Records. The time has finally come for Abhoria’s self-titled debut to see the light of day, so let’s dig in.

Portz cites Enslaved as a huge influence for him in general and points to the band’s sophomore album Frost, alongside Immortal’s At the Heart of Winter, as having given specific inspiration for what he’s doing in Abhoria. And boy, does it show. In a time where there seems to be nearly limitless styles of the blackened variety, Abhoria plays black metal the way the second wave founding fathers intended. Abhoria is a very aggressive platter, opting for modern-sounding, yet icy brutality much of the time. Embedded track “Mountebank” gives a great preview of what these guys are going for. During my time with Ashen Horde, I’ve realized that Portz has a pretty distinctive way of playing minor chords, and I recognized his sound right away on “Mountebank.” Vocalist Walthrax has a delivery that alternates between blackened shrieks and genre-spanning growls that remind me a bit of Randy Blythe—a good thing, in my book—and his voice complements the vicious music really well.

Once you press play on Abhoria, track after track of relentless black metal will batter you senseless as you walk the gauntlet that leads towards the album’s epic closer. “The Thorn” is a chaotic concoction of tremolos, whiplash-inducing minor chord progressions, and double bass drum, complete with a fantastic solo. “Byzantine Promises” blasts out of the gate and takes its place as the record’s shortest and most violent number, leading straight into the more restrained and thoughtful—though still heavy—”Grave Expectations.” But the first real curveball doesn’t come along until final track “Sunless,” a 7-minute epic that includes a lot more melody and vocal diversity, even going so far as to include some clean singing. It’s a great track, and I’d love to see more like this on Abhoria’s successor.

But the success of “Sunless” spotlights the homogeneity of the rest of the album. I have no problem with the aggressive, take-no-prisoners approach taken on the preceding tracks, but the diverse closer makes me think that a bit more variety throughout the album might have gone a long way towards aiding the record’s memorability. While each and every track is enjoyable, it can be easy to lose where you are in the runtime. That being said, there are some really good songs joining “Sunless,” including “Mountebank,” “The Thorn,” “Byzantine Promises,” “Grave Expectations,” “Unevangelized.”

While not nearly as groundbreaking as Ashen Horde, Abhoria has produced 42 minutes of solid, no-nonsense American black metal for your listening pleasure. If I know anything about my friend Trever Portz, it’s that he’s constantly evolving as a musician, and I expect him to continue to tweak and dial-in this project’s sound going forward. Abhoria is a great foundation for the band, and I’m excited to see what they build on top of it. Abhoria? I actually really like ya!

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: abhoria.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/abhoriametal
Releases Worldwide: February 4th, 2022

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