(Andy Synn reviews the new album by Abigail Williams.)
Oh look! Perennial bandwagon jumpers Abigail Williams are back once again, with another trend-chasing collection of….
Actually. Fuck that.
Seriously. If you’re honestly still thinking like this… then there’s the door… feel free to let it hit you on the way out.
Because, and I say this with all the love in the world… this sort of attitude is complete bullshit and an example of precisely the sort of self-sustaining, media-created narrative mostly adopted by people too lazy to form their own opinions, and disseminated widely by sites and magazines more interested in following the herd and copying what they’ve read elsewhere than putting in any critical effort of their own.
Ironic, isn’t it, when it’s the media themselves blindly following the very trends they’re accusing others of…
If it needs reiterating though, I’ll state it here – Abigail Williams have ALWAYS been a band who’ve grown and changed with every release and, if we discount their debut EP (which, unfortunately, will probably always be the metaphorical albatross around their neck), it’s not exactly hard to see the threads of continuity and development running through all of their albums – if you’re actually willing to open your eyes.
It’s obvious from listening to this album though that the band (comprised on this recording of mainman Ken Sorceron, guitarist Jeff Wilson, bassist Will Lindsay, and drummer Charlie Fell) clearly felt that directly attempting to top Becoming was a fool’s errand. Something that would be both self-defeating and possibly self-destructive to attempt.
Instead they’ve taken a slightly different path on The Accuser, inverting the moody introspection of its predecessor into a dark and brooding nihilism, creating in the process a distorted reflection and a dark inversion of their former sound that still shares many of the same traits and elements, but twists them into harsher, more dissonant shapes.
(all live photos by Levan TK)
You’ll no doubt immediately notice this in the torrent of sheer spite unleashed on “Path of Broken Glass”, which kicks in with a shocking immediacy very much unlike the more patient and penitent approach which characterised Becoming.
The influence of Sorceron and Fell’s time spent in Lord Mantis is readily apparent throughout the track, manifesting in an uglier and more savage take on the band’s signature sound – particularly when it comes to the noticeably more unhinged and feverish vocals and complete lack of restraint displayed over the course of the song’s five-and-a-half hellishly infectious minutes.
“The Cold Lines”, by way of contrast, is a moodier, doomier, groovier… and surprisingly concise… slow-burner of a track, laced with a wealth of emaciated blackened melodies, that conceals some surprising depths within its unexpectedly short run-time.
“Of The Outer Darkness” begins with a tumultuous cascade of withering Black Metal riffs and strangled screams, driven mercilessly onwards by Fell’s relentless blastery, but as the track begins to unfold a bleakly melodic theme begins to insinuate itself amongst the rushing, heaving chaos, eventually causing the song to transform entirely into a hypnotic, glacially-paced piece of eerily majestic riffs and gloom-shrouded power, that eventually ends the way it began – in a furious upheaval of vile aggression and venomous distortion.
The Nachtmystium-esque psychic-melodies that infiltrate “Will, Wish, and Desire” give the song a slightly fractured, kaleidoscopic feel (very much in keeping with the album’s eye-catching artwork) whilst still retaining the same sense of cohesion and clarity that the band perfected on Becoming, leading into the utterly scalding “Godhead”, which features another scarifying display by the newly-unleashed vocal chords of Ken Sorceron, all delivered atop a rolling deluge of scathing riffs building, with devastating inevitability, towards a groaning, doom-laden climax.
“Forever Kingdom of Dirt” is a grime-flecked masterstroke of sonic hatred and loathing which shifts insidiously from a back-breaking crawl to a buzzing, bursting frenzy – and back again – ebbing and flowing and coiling in upon itself, over the course of six-and-a-half minutes of cold fury and abject despair. Its finale is a thing of beauty in and of itself, growing into a spiralling, plunging torrent of thrumming riffs and keening guitar melodies, topped off with a snarling vocal hook intoning the track’s grim and desolate title-refrain.
The ram-raid attack of “Lost Communion” has something of a rolling swagger to it, shot through with a series of esoteric, piercing lead melodies that thread their way in and out of the blasting, grooving, melee, climaxing in the unexpectedly massive hooks of the song’s mid-section, with some frankly huge vocals and booming riffs offering a big payoff to the song’s rapid-fire build-up.
The band once again save something special for last though, as the dying bars of “Lost Communion” transition into the surprisingly languid, dreamy ambience of “Nuumite”. It’s certainly not as downright epic as its counterpart in “Beyond The Veil”, but it’s almost as drastic a shift in approach, turning the nihilistic aggression of The Accuser on its head in favour of a slow and solemn procession of sober melody and weighty, downbeat clean vocals.
What I find particularly interesting is the way in which the overall structure of the album — starting in full-force, writhing and coiling in upon itself as it progresses, dipping now and then into desolate passages of groaning darkness, before a penultimate blast of fury paves the way for its sombre, doom-laden conclusion – is so closely reflected in the structure of the tracks which make it up.
Indeed, repeated listenings seem to indicate that The Accuser is, in essence, a strangely fractal piece of work, one where the whole can be seen in every part… something which I can’t imagine is accidental. The themes, the art, the structures and patterns observed within it… they all fit together far too perfectly for this to be a coincidence.
To my senses The Accuser feels like both a counterpoint and companion to Becoming, an inverted reflection of that album which expands upon its sound, without seeking to top it.
Where Becoming built up slowly, rising towards the point of eruption, The Accuser burns hard right from the start, but burns itself down to the bone in the process. It’s a simple but effective shift in approach, but one that was definitely the right move to make, simultaneously sidestepping accusations of trend-chasing whilst also refusing to be boxed in or stagnate in one place, and right now I’m struggling to decide between Becoming and The Accuser as to which is the better album…
Although maybe I don’t have to. As I said, they’re two sides of the same coin after all, presenting different faces of the same distinctive sound.
The Accuser will be released by Candlelight Records on October 30. You can order it on Bandcamp HERE. Abigail Williams are also on tour right now with Today Is the Day. The schedule is below.
ABIGAIL WILLIAMS / TODAY IS THE DAY TOUR
9/25 – Worcester, MA Ralphs Diner
9/26 – Long Branch, NJ The Brighton Bar
9/27 – New York, NY The Bowery Electric
9/28 – Baltimore, MD Club Orpheus
9/29 – Chesapeake, VA Riffhouse Pub
9/30 – Fayetteville, NC The DHP
10/1 – Spartanburg, SC Groundzero
10/2 – Tampa, FL Epic Problem
10/3 – Margate, FL O’Malleys
10/4 – Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
10/5 – Pensacola FL The Handlebar
10/7 – San Antonio, TX The Korova
10/8 – Fort Worth, TX The Rail Club
10/9 – Austin, TX Dirty Dog Bar
10/10 – Abilene, TX Abilene Civic Center
10/11 – Albuquerque, NM Blu Phoenix Venue
10/12 – Flagstaff, AZ The Green Room
10/13 – Phoenix, AZ Joe’s Grotto
10/14 – W. Hollywood, CA The Whisky
10/15 – Las Vegas, NV LVCS
10/16 – San Francisco, CA The DNA Lounge
10/17 – Portland, OR Black Water Bar
Abigail Williams is one of my favorite bands. I take no issue with their style or musical content. What I do take issue with is it seems with each album release, the production gets worse and worse. I’m sure they are trying to reach an old school black metal “sound”. I get that. But there is a limit I think. I feel like I am listening to this album through a cardboard box and it frustrates me. The production doesn’t have to be squeaky clean. But it would be nice if there was some clarity. Other than that, Abigail Williams rocks!
I’ve not found the production on any of them to be an issue so far to be honest.
I don’t think they’re so much going for an “old school” (i.e. recorded in a cave using a 4-track they pulled out of the river) sound, as much as they’re going for as natural/organic as possible. I know for a fact Ken’s not at all a fact of the ubiquitous uber-volume, brickwalled production job that’s become an unfortunate standard for many labels.
I agree with you on the brickwalled sound. But I also know there are ways to make something sound very natural and clear at the same time without being compressed and given supernova volume. I just wish there was a little more separation between the instruments. Sounds a little to muffled for my taste. Everyone gave the band Nile shit for the production on the At The Gates Of Sethu album. I thought it was perfect. Either way, it won’t turn me off of Abigail Williams. Their music is far more important to me than the production. I was just being nitpicky.
I had no real problems with the production on that Nike album either tbh. I mean, I’m still not a huge fan of it, but the production doesn’t bother me!
Nope. That was perfect. Nike Metal.
That is probably the best intro for an album review I’ve read in awhile.
You’ve also left my speechless with anything to say on this album other than I’m pretty excited to listen to this one for myself. It has a lot of things in common with Lord Mantis and Nachtmystium and that is something I look for.
I also haven’t listened to a thing off their album Becoming so I’ll be sure to give that album a shot.
Definitely give Becoming your time whenever you next get chance. It’s a fantastic album.
And thank you for the kind words about the intro. I tend to prefer not to be ovely provocative with my writing… but I couldn’t help it this time!
This one sounds like it’s gonna be positively pissed. Can’t wait for it.
It is NOT a happy album, no sir.
Though the last track has a certain… wistful melancholy… about it that serves as a perfect digestif.
I’d say Legend is to Abigail Williams what Doom was to Job for a Cowboy, but Legend was an average-to-even-kinda-good deathcore EP and Doom was……Doom.
I liked this long and accurate review, so, this album has a different take than “Becoming” which is a good album. The band is in constant growing and different album after album as I’ve noticed through these years and “Path of Broken Glass” is a proof, I like to listen to this song several times any day, his vitriolic and chaothic dark approach filled with that howls that leaves you without a sense of positivity sounds congruent for the mood that a Black Metal album wants to express, for me at least. Great opener, good idea to begin an album with a song so intense and violent and seems various thinking about “Wish, Will and Desire” and “Forever Kingdom of Dirt” that are other good songs, I can’t wait to listen the entire album.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’ll never understand the “trend hopping” or “they’re just playing black metal to be popular” arguments as applied to…almost any band. The only reason you play black metal or include black metal influence in your music is because you love it or otherwise feel compelled to do it because of your own aesthetic sense. Nobody’s getting rich off of black metal, and if there’s some band out there that’s actually jumping on black metal as a way of being popular/getting rich, well…that’s just tragically sad/dumb.
In fairness I have seen a number of bands who aren’t Black Metal bands lay claim to a “Black Metal influence” in their bios or press releases, or whatnot, just because they occasionally listen to Watain or Behemoth… or one of the other more widely exposed bands.
And I think they do so partially out of ignorance and a lack of self-awareness… and partially because it provides a specious veneer of credibility, as well as to try and attract the more fairweather Black Metal fans who only sort-of/kind-of like the genre really, but would be happy with something that pays lip service to it.
Hence you get “Blackened” Metalcore, and Deathcore, and every other genre you can think of… or “Post” Black Metal bands, who aren’t really Black Metal bands at all.
Never underestimate the power of marketing!
I dont think the “trend hopper” label is being applied in the right context here…
…okay, before I go any further let me say, I get that people like this band, and thats fine. However I sometimes act in the comments section, I do ultimately try to be respectful of the other people tastes here on NCS and Im in no way telling anyone what they can and cant like…this is purely my opinion
…so going back, the first thing that always pops into my head when it comes to Abigail Williams is a term I almost never throw around…”Try Hard”. Ever since I became aware of this band, theyve always seemed like they were desperate to be accepted by the metal community. Everything from their current music style, to their “kvlt” shirts, to the projects the members are always jumping into seems to (again, in my opinion) scream “Seriously guys…we’re cool now”. Now is that whats really going on with them…probably not, but I do think some people pick up on that vibe and it turns them off
So, I dont think the “trend hopper” label has anything to do with being popular in the greater musical context, its about a band that comes across like they’ll do anything to gain approval from their audience
I can understand that perception, in all honesty, but I will say that I have known Ken for quite some time now… we’re not exactly “close” friends by any means, but we often spend time talking about the music which we’re both passionate about and that’s never been the impression I’ve gotten from him.
However what IS quite funny is that what you’ve written above could have fit almost perfectly into a conversation we had a few nights ago about Deafheaven.
Now he has a (slightly) more positive view of them than I do (he thinks they’re still trying to find themselves properly, I think they’ve already found their niche, in a very calculated way) but he said that DH are very much still looking for “legitimacy” within the Metal scene, and have been trying to hang out and associate with a bunch of underground “names” over the past several years post-Sunbather to garner themselves some credibility.
So that little bit of happenstance made me chuckle.
I know these dudes fairly intimately and would have to say this is pretty dead wrong. They honestly don’t give two fucks about what the metal community thinks of them almost to the point of doing quite a bit of harm. A very self destructive group of guys indeed.
If you were to give them advice on how to get more popular they would definitely not listen. Just my opinion from knowing most these fellas for a while.
…and thats fine, I dont know these guys from Adam so for all I know they eat crosses and shit hellfire in their spare time, but claims of bandwagon jumping and trend hopping have been following them around for years now so whatever their intentions may be theyre clearly giving this impression off for some reason (whether they care or not is a different matter)…My comment was just based on the vibe I personally get from them
To be honest, and as I state in my intro… it really feels like a lot of those claims are self-perpetuating now. It’s nothing the band are doing, I’m just afraid that enough sites/zines regurgitated them when they were first bandied about to create a horrible feedback loop that’s dogged the band ever since.
I mean, sweet zombie jesus, it’s CLEARLY the same band and sound progressing through …”Absence…”, “Becoming”, and “The Accuser”… but the easy, pre-written reviews somehow keep missing that…
..and that may be true of this release..I dont care for the band nearly enough to have really looked at reviews for their new album, but this claim started what…two…three..four albums ago? It may be self-perpetuating now, but it didnt spring out of a vacuum either…As I said, whether merited or not, I think theres a perception of this band that theyre just trying too hard and thats the label thats really following them around
I also have gotten to know three of the guys in the band a little, and although I certainly wouldn’t pretend to be a close friend, I’m agreeing with vivivi’s comment above. They certainly have no serious interest in being “popular”, and my strong sense is that they don’t feel like they have anything to prove to the metal community to establish their credibility. Musically, they do what they want to do, and that changes over time, but I’m pretty sure that trying to calculate some formula for success is light years away from what they spend their time thinking about.
Honestly, as I said to vivivi, this is just my impression as a non-fan as to why the label follows them around so much…as an outsider looking in so to speak.
As a fan, my impression of that label is “who fucking cares?”
i’ve never heard about the “trend-chasing” thing, before?
the new track is pretty cool 🙂
That would be cool to review this alongside the new Vehemence album, as basically that whole band was in AW.
Don’t you worry your pretty little head… I am most DEFINITELY going to be reviewing the new Vehemence as soon as I get my grubby paws on it!
Ken “Sorceron” was genre trend jumping long before he jumped on the metal bandwagon.