It is fair to say that the trials and tribulations of this unique black metal act have been well documented via various outlets detailing the issues with maintaining a stable line up mainly, plus the seemingly active or non-active status of the band since its inception a decade and half plus ago. Anyone who has followed this US band over the course of four full lengths and two EPs know that Abigail Williams has never conformed to any form of trend, formula or predictability. Indeed, each and every release has contained its own distinctive traits whether pummelling barbarism, ambient soundscapes, symphonic grandiosity or atmospheric posturing, every release has captured something the listener can say is truly superb.
Ken Sorceron is still heading this act up like he did with “The Accuser” release four years ago, as the mastermind headed back to the studio to unleash possibly the most accomplished, varied and texturized album the band has ever recorded. Ably assisted by a raft of guest musicians this album fully realises a sonic vista that was present in parts on all the previous releases and brings them all together into this tremendous and awe-inspiring album that begins with “I Wil Depart”. The trademark bleakness of the guitar sound is intact as the song funnels down an avenue of mid-tempo melodicism with the rasping vocals cruelly stabbing at the track as the riffing pumps obsidian menace. Ingrained malignancy manifests via the eerily presented hooks and sublime lead breaks that are subtly embedded before the detonation in speed.
“Sun And Moon” begins with sombre overtones as an isolated guitar riff focuses your attention before the rest of the instrumentation filters in, where the clean mournful vocals produce an almost Gothic quality. As the song evolves and cleverly develops those clean vocals morph to a soaring tone making the song epic and enveloping before the song cohesively increases the velocity and violence equally with the vocals returning to the throaty harshness. The plunging dive into drum fill and bass line is executed brilliantly, slicing the track neatly for it build back up again. Shorter but incendiary is “Ever So Bold” where the glacial riffing comes to its fore through the unerring speed and vitriolic intent, allowing the brilliant “Black Waves” to instil contrast and atmosphere with a creepiness and ghoulish aura. The intro section has that sense of drama before strings materialise beautifully creating a sorrowful opening that is funereal in style, yet intoxicatingly addictive. The song has post rock poise that saturates the track in grief and melancholy where the beauteous ambience completely enshrouds the listener, steadily increasing in intensity towards the explosive power of the horror-stricken vocals and blasting savagery. The strings reappear toward the climax enabling the song to recreate that stricken atmosphere yet retaining power.
The initial panoramic sorrow of “Born Of Nothing” is steeped in emotion before the song unleashes some of the fastest drumming on the album unveiling how this act asserts its force within the true black metal sphere as the song seems to speed up incrementally and when the blast beat surges even faster the result is terrifyingly effective. Like all the songs this is coloured with hues of sonic gradations where the nihilistic assaults are tempered by despairing melodies and intense vocals that pierce you with emphasised words such as ‘Flesh’ ‘Blood’ ‘Bone’ which repeat before the strings inject their own aura of despondency. Closing this masterpiece is “The Final Failure”, a song that appeared as a single in 2016, if you can call an eleven-minute tune a single that is. The opening dolefulness is creepily delivered as the drum fill fleshes out the fabric of the song, but retaining that sense of anguish with a bereft riff that materialises. The escalating tension is palpable creating that sense of being flooded with passion before the song drifts into acoustic guitar after which the track detonates again with repetitious volleys of speed. The harsh vocals are accompanied periodically with cleaner vocals elements that seem to float on top of raging blackened wrath right before the song plunges into a miasmic dirge where deathly vocals bellow beastly with a cavernous tone producing doom death like phases with a fine lead break that allows the songs pace to increase again. The song is truly wondrous on all levels and indeed typifies why Abigail Williams is such a distinctive and wholly absorbing band that writes songs with unmistakable passion saturated with blackened violence and balanced by ambitious emotive and beautifully played tranquil pieces.
There are few albums within the atmospheric black metal sphere to compare with this release, it captures all the elements of wrathful black metal and intricately weaves the post-black and post-rock threads into a release that is unassailably magnificent.
(9.5/10 Martin Harris)