Following the departure from former project Immortal, Abbath (or Olve Eikemo to his parents) is back with the premiere of his self titled solo project, with a brand new record in tow for his mass of occult-obsessed followers. However, does it live up to the man’s past efforts in previous bands?
1. To War
2. Winter Bane
3. Ashes Of The Damned
4. Ocean Of Wounds
5. Count The Dead
6. Fenrir Hunts
7. Root Of The Mountain
Kicking off the album with the almost death march-like To War, the epic opener seems fit to bash down the gates of hell within its first doom-laden minute. Frantic blast-beats carry half-time riffs throughout the track, covered by snarled, croaking vocals courtesy of Abbath himself. Unfortunately, vocals on this track sit uncomfortably low in the mix, something of a trend that continues across the rest of the record. Channelling black metal brothers Behemoth, To War is as good an opener as any metal head could possibly wish for.
With nary a drop of a single beat we’re thrown into the pummelling double bass work of lead single Winter Bane, the album’s longest track. With yet more focus on stickwork, the song’s half-time chorus melds beautifully with the inescapable sense of pure aggression throughout, keeping the listener on their toes in periods threatening to surrender to monotony. Featuring the most prominent vocals on the album, it’s easy to see why the song was chosen to represent the band’s overall sound. Ending with an acoustic arpeggio sectioned bridge to an almost Motorhead-esque pomp-infused closing few minutes, the track is one of the album’s best.
Keeping the theme of no-holds barred, we come to the adrenaline fuelled Ashes Of The Damned, ushering us into its four minute run with an intricate bass solo before ushering in the return of the album’s favourite musical element: the wonderful blast beat. However, it isn’t all business as usual, as the track contains a singular use of an incredibly effective brass section, jolting the listener from their pummel-induced stupor.
Tom-heavy Ocean Of Wounds pounds along at a slower, albeit more calculated pace than the rest of its comrades on the record. A fitting halfway mark for the album, the track’s ominous, foreboding feel adds a sense of structure the album so clearly craves at this point in proceedings. Couple that with one of the records finest riffs and you have an intermittent track worth writing home about.
Honestly, it’s not hard to declare Count The Dead as the album’s best track by an absolute country mile. The careful juxtaposition of high speed alternate picked riffs accompanied by more half-time, pounding stickwork works beautifully here, creating the record’s grooviest moment by far. Incredibly catchy with the best vocal performance on the entire works, Count The Dead stands out as a fine example of groove-laden black metal.
Embracing its death metal influences a little more vividly, Fenrir Hunts features one of the best break-elements of any track on the album, alongside some truly superb guitarwork with one of the best riffs from Abbath himself on display here. Moving onto the chest thumping, anthemic Root Of The Mountain we’re treated to a song not just powerful but catchy in melody, despite it’s tendency to outstay it’s welcome just a little too long.
Closing out the album, Eternal does a fine job of reminding the listener just what Abbath are here to achieve: blisteringly fast riffs, intricately laced stickwork and blazing pace. The track bookends the debut record from black metal’s darling in true Abbath fashion.
Abbath’s debut effort is a tricky one to critique. What can you say about an album that manages to accomplish so little in terms of ingenuity, yet carries itself in such fine form for its respective genre? Whilst I’m driven to praise the album as a whole, I’m a person who generally enjoys black metal. Will this record turn any unconverted, change the face of the genre? Definitely not. Will Immortal fans love it? Absolutely, and it could happily sit among the front man’s finest efforts. When all is said and done, Abbath is a great black metal record through and through. However, if you’re looking for something new, something to change the face of black metal for the masses, I’d recommend you look elsewhere.