Abbath - Abbath Review

Abbath - Abbath
Abbath - Abbath. Season Of Mist

Metal is an aging art form. We’ve reached the point where our revered, iconic artists are beginning to pass away or are long past their prime. Thankfully, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are still going strong, but Black Sabbath are literally reaching The End,  Metallica aren’t relevant anymore, and personalities such as Dave Mustaine are polarizing.

There aren’t many artists waiting in the wings to take these iconic heroes’ places, except for maybe, Abbath Doom Occulta.

Born Olve Eikemo, Abbath was a co-founder of Immortal, one of the second wave of Norwegian black metal’s seminal bands. After the semi-retirement of bandmate Demonaz due to acute tendinitis in the late 1990s, Abbath became the face of Immortal and its most recognizable personality.

Abbath displays a certain good natured silliness and charm within black metal, something that is not usually present and, if it were so, in just about anyone else’s hands, would be ostracized almost immediately by a fan base that celebrates purity within the genre.

But Abbath, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek in promotional photos showing him decked out in armor with his almost trademarked style of gaudy corpsepaint, and with his short stature, endears himself to his fan base as a mascot of sorts. Metal doesn’t have that many mascots, and those that are granted this status (Ozzy, Dio, and maybe Dee Snider along with a couple of others), are legends.

Abbath is also an amazing guitarist and songwriter, and has a distinctive vocal style. All of these factors place a certain amount of importance on Abbath’s shoulders, especially after his acrimonious departure from Immortal and the subsequent organization of Abbath’s new, self titled band.

Which brings us to the release of Abbath self-titled debut album.

Surrounding himself with excellent musicians that are obviously familiar with his style of songwriting and musicianship, Abbath has released an awesome album right out of the gate, picking up pretty much where Immortal left off a few years back with 2009’s All Shall Fall.

Bassist King Ov Hell, formerly of Gorgoroth and now of God Seed, reunites with Abbath. He also played bass for Abbath’s side project, I, which released an album in 2006. That album, Between Two Worlds, showed Abbath exploring his fondness for 1970s styled hard rock in a project that combined that style with black metal, resulting in a sort of retro sounding type of black n’ roll. To some extent, that approach makes an appearance on Abbath with traditional rock music song structures and lots of catchy, crunchy riffs.

However, the basis of Abbath is still primarily fast black metal in the style of Immortal, telling stories of a fantastical, frostbitten north. The album’s explosive opener “To War!” sets the tone with a crunchy riff followed by blastbeats. Abbath’s guitars are loud, clear, and expertly played, and the production is professional, slick, and organic. The drums, courtesy of Creature, a musician with connections to the French black metal scene, and the bass are both crystal clear, and nicely complement Abbath’s guitars and vocals.

However, Abbath only gets better and better from here with songs such as “Winterbane” and “Ashes Of The Damned” emerging as break out songs. Songs alternate between being blisteringly fast with precise riffing, and slowing down the pace to a mid-paced tempo with insane amounts of catchy riffs providing the backbone. Hints of melody creep into the music here and there, and a few retro moments of catchy, hard rock song structures make appearances as Abbath reaches back to his roots.

Abbath has released a stellar album with Abbath, and he also looks poised to just about take over the metal world this year with festival appearances and a soon to commence headlining trek across North America on this year’s Decibel Magazine Tour. With his departure from Immortal, Abbath has been forced to reinvent himself.

The results are spectacular.

(released January 22, 2016 on Season Of Mist)