Abbath may have exited from Blashyrkh, but his solo debut sure has wintry, chilly intent

Ester SegarraSeeing a great band fall to pieces always is a sad thing. I’ve long loved Immortal. I drove through a blinding snowstorm with the accumulation occurring in alarming proportions just to see them play five winters ago in Pittsburgh. Fitting though, right? So to hear the band was totally altered by the departure of Abbath Doom Occulta was a depressing thought.

Yet both Immortal and Abbath live on in separate entities, and Abbath has struck first with his new band’s self-titled debut record. While we’re no longer living in the land of Blashyrkh with this new project, the music remains frosty and wintry. That’s also fitting as the day this piece was to run, we’re expecting frigid temperatures in my hometown of Pittsburgh. What we have here with this eight-track first album is a mix of many things. Certainly you feel a lot of Immortal in these songs, but the material also reaches back to Abbath’s I days and even pushes forward into other realms. It’s not purely a black metal album by any means. It’s more than that. It might take a little adjustment to get into the record fully–it took me a few listens to shake my Immortal-like expectations–but you’ll find a fun, fiery collection that sounds alive and breathing fire.

Abbath coverAs for the lineup, obviously we have Abbath on guitars and vocals, his unmistakable gurgle front and center on these cuts. If you’re one of those folks who couldn’t get into Abbath’s vocals, this record won’t change your mind. If you love them, like I do, it’ll feel like a welcome return. King ov Hell (who also played in I) is here on bass, and on the record, Creature (Benighted), who has since departed, handles the drum work. There has been some further shuffling with the live lineup, but your core is Abbath and King, and that really should be all they need moving forward.

The record opens with “To War,” with boots on the ground and the tempo immediately making a statement for what’s ahead. The track takes its time setting up, with the riffs swirling and mashing, horns blaring, and the drums breaking through the Earth’s crust. Abbath is in fine voice, howling the very simple chorus and sneering over the verses. “Winterbane” is a pure dose of Blashyrkh-style assault, with riffs storming forward, those creaky growls center stage, and a really great, catchy chorus that should go over quite well live. The track storms hard and hammers the ground with the white stuff, with the bass rollicking and the intensity building. There’s a brief calm with acoustic guitars chiming, but then it’s back to stomping, with Abbath’s buzzing singing ruling. “Ashes of the Damned” just crushes, with harsh vocals blasting you and even some horns entering the mix. The pace crushes under its weight, with strong melodies and the horns returning for some final blasts. “Ocean of Wounds” has the drums bustling and mega-strong riffs steamrolling. The song thrashes pretty forcefully through the bulk of this, with grumbly growls striking, a murky synth pool rising, and the track ending in a storm.

“Count the Dead” finds the storm continuing, and then the song starts punching, with grim growls and abrasive melodies leading the way. The heaviness continues to build, as wild howls erupt, the drums blister everything, and some great lead guitar work ignites fires and bleeds all the way to the end. “Fennir Hunts” has stirring riffs and devastating drums that approach blast territory. This track gushes black metal intent, as the temp charges hard, feeling a lot like an old Immortal song, with the guitars blazing and the vocals mauling your senses. Good track. “Root of the Mountain” is a strange one, taking on more of a rock feel and settling into a mid-tempo range. The track gets misty and foggy at times, with some swagger injected into the playing and a gust of wind taking it out. Closer “Endless” tears open right away, with the vocals practically spat out and the track pulverizing. The guitars continue to jab, while the vocals fly out fast and frighteningly, and every element crashes down on you and brings the record to a thunderous end.      

While not perfect, this debut Abbath record is a confident step forward into the future, a foundation setter on which this band can build over the years. It’s a rousing listen, one that’ll get your juices flowing, and a collection that will chill your heart to its core. I’m looking forward to hear what the band has live and how they keep moving from here. I guess it’s your move, Immortal.

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