Abbath Doom Occulta: Born Olve Eikemo. Longtime frontman of Immortal. This doofus:
Reach level 30 to unlock advanced resource harvesting.
Abbath: New band formed by Abbath Doom Occulta after his split with Immortal. Joining him is I bandmate King (God Seed, ex-Gorgoroth, etc.) on bass. Also joining him was a man that called himself Creature (Benighted drummer Kevin Foley). The Creature has since departed the rankings in swift fashion upon completion of this album, so we’re left with this:
Is that some sort of Snaggletooth-Danzig hybrid on his chest?
Abbath: The album created by this new band when it was still a complete unit, and the subject of this review.
A bath: What I didn’t take this morning.
Abbath the man doesn’t seem to be getting along with people lately. The he-said-we-said split with Immortal got ugly the moment Demonaz and Horgh decided to make a statement about the whole thing (and it’ll likely get uglier when they attempt to carry on without Abbath). Then you have the drummer of his new band and a live guitarist quitting before things had the chance to really get going. What does all of this tell us? Who knows. What does all of it mean? Bupkis, that’s what.
The only thing that matters is whether the true carrier of Immortal’s spirit – and Abbath is that, regardless of who might write lyrics – can continue his singular musical legacy. With both Immortal and I, Abbath’s career has ranged from the coldest of black metals to a thrashy, arena-infused giant, from straight Bathory worship to very Motörheading rock drives, all with the ability to be completely tongue-in-cheek and deathly serious at the same time. The man Abbath had made himself into a full icon of heavy metal, and the band Abbath needed to continue that.
Thankfully, this debut album does just that, calling back to every part of Abbath’s career over eight songs and an efficient 40-ish minutes. Other than the curious inclusion of horns (or “horns”) in one track, the album does absolutely nothing new, and quite frankly, that is exactly what we all wanted from the album: Fan service, and lots of it. In this way, Abbath absolutely delivers.
Opener “To War!” immediately gets the touch-all-bases approach in full swing. After an odd, typically rock intro, the song blasts off into blazing black metal, finding a balance between Sons of Northern Darkness punch and primitive Battles in the North fury, and later settling into more of an All Shall Fall feel. With an intro that calls to mind the classic “Cursed Realms of the Winterdemons” and a relentless violence that apes Blizzard Beasts, “Ashes of the Damned” rises to be one of the album’s true highlights, especially once you stopped being surprised by the horns. Wedged between these songs is the mid-paced “Winter Bane,” which feels like a lost track from the Between Two Worlds sessions, and is all the more effective for the contrast. Great tracks, but just the start.
The album benefits greatly from an extremely strong second half. “Count the Dead” and “Fenrir Hunts” are both unabashed hybrids of all post-2000 Abbath material, with the former being pretty high on the catchiness scale (so a natural choice as the lead single), while “Endless” is a fittingly intense closer. It is “Root of the Mountain,” however, that really glues the album together. This is Abbath at his most Quorthon-worshipping – slow, driving, epic, and atmospheric – and it’ll be damn near impossible to resist for all but the most hardened of black metal purists.
For said purists, there is a caveat. The colder, throwback moments often don’t immediately feel throwback. This is partly due to a more modernized production that, quite frankly, could use a bit more depth and clarity, but also due to the inevitable passage of time. This isn’t the same Abbath, so even the most relentless material here fails to capture the naïve, icy rage heard in the early 90s. And that’s fine, it just means that, for those that only cared for the pre-Heart of Winter period, this album isn’t going to suddenly reignite your obsession with all things Abbath.
For those that enjoy all of his music, or even strictly Immortal’s later albums, Abbath is heaps of fun. It isn’t going to unseat anyone’s favorite album, be it Holocaust, Sons, or Between Two Worlds, but it’s a more-than-welcome addition to Abbath’s long career. No filler, and mostly killer. Regardless of the name under which he chooses to release new music, here’s hoping Abbath keeps the BLECH train movin’ for many more years.