The Abbey – Word of Sin Review

The Abbey of Thelema was a commune in Sicily run by Aleister Crowley. Home to the wild hedonism and magick of his cult, the Abbey met its unceremonious end in 1923, when Crowley’s shenanigans convinced Mussolini to boot him out of Italy. Finnish psychedelic doom outfit The Abbey aims to carry on the Abbey’s legacy. The Abbey’s debut Word of Sin draws inspiration from occult organizations and their mystical practices. It’s a comically apt concept for this subgenre, with surreal album art to match. I approached Word of Sin with a clear picture of its musical intentions but no clue about its quality. So where does The Abbey land, on a scale of stoned high schooler to Black Sabbath?

Word of Sin treads well-trodden ground. The Abbey lays down a foundation of simple doom riffs and embellishes them with patient melodic leads, reminding me of Saint Vitus. A healthy number of rocking Witchfinder General riffs break the routine from time to time. Meanwhile, lead vocalists Jesse Heikkinen and Natalie Koskinen (Shape of Despair) alternate between sparse croons and dense vocal layering throughout Word of Sin. It’s imperfect, and Heikkinen struggles in his higher register, but the large role that the vocals play is one of the album’s distinguishing features. Top it off with some synths, and you get a record that has some tricks up its sleeve but never strays too far from its psychedelic rock origins.

Word of Sin’s stylistic repetition makes it difficult to love as a complete album. Swaths of Word of Sin rely on genre tropes without enough creative tweaks to stay interesting, like lumbering doomy chords (“Old Ones”) and generic psych rock choruses (“Queen of Pain”). In particular, the sparsest sections of the record are sometimes tedious, like the soft reverb-laden melodies that open “Crystallion” and the extended synth solo on the 13-minute closer “Old Ones.” More generally, The Abbey’s toolkit feels small. After 53 minutes of chants and psychedelic leads over simple doom riffs and hard rock breaks, the pieces blend together. There’s a time and a place for repetitive music, but only if it’s powerful enough to keep my mind from drifting.

Still, The Abbey has a unique talent for writing infectious melodies. The guitar leads on Word of Sin are both climactic and well-integrated, making them memorable even after just a few passive listens (“Crystallion,” “Old Ones”). These leads lie firmly in the psych rock tradition but range from straightforward to beautifully adventurous, sometimes echoing David Gilmour on Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here (“Starless”). The Abbey’s ever-present vocal melodies follow suit, like the unforgettable opening of “Widow’s Will” and the serene harmonized chorus of “Starless.” These strengths coalesce in the masterful “A Thousand Dead Witches,” which uses a single lead melody as an anchor for a hard rock riff-fest, a catchy chorus, and a morose doom section, all without skipping a beat. Not every track fares as well, and haphazard structure prevents songs like “Desert Temple” and “Queen of Pain” from leaving a mark. But The Abbey deserves credit for writing hooks that snared me so quickly.

Word of Sin is a promising debut, but it doesn’t escape the pitfalls of its genre. Too much of the record sounds like generic psychedelic doom, and I can’t help feeling like I’ve had too much after each complete listen. The Abbey would do well to either diversify their style or tighten up their writing. That said, Word of Sin’s irresistible leads and vocal harmonies provide ample evidence of The Abbey’s talent. While Word of Sin may not meet my expectations, there’s enough here to keep me on the lookout for their next occult outing.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320kbps mp3
Label: Season of Mist
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 17th, 2023

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