Chronicle the Perdition with Abigor, Horna and Vargrav
Four bands of long-standing black metal musicians. Four distinct styles. Three releases.
Abigor is without a doubt Austria’s best known black metal bands. Earning their fame with unique sound using multi-layered guitars, and later heavier incorporation of prominent keyboard-lines, while retaining their own unique little sound. TT, one half of the band, was also instrumental in the rise of Napalm Records, a company that took an unfortunate nose-dive as his involvement decreased. Abigor came to an end in 2003, only to be reformed three years later – this time with an emphasis on industrial influence. While many of the riffs were stellar as ever, I’ve always had a hard time getting into those records and it took several years and a bunch of guitar playthrough’s before I could appreciate them even nearly as much as the original run. 2014’s Leytmotif Luzifer once more changed the paradigm, introducing dissonant waves and rigidity into their compositions. Höllenzwang seeks to undo all that.
Before recording, Abigor set for themselves tenets that dictated a certain direction for the record. No blastbeats were to be utilized, no disharmonic, downtuned riffing to be used. Multi-layered guitar madness was to be avoided at all costs – only one left, and one right. Lyrically “all hokuspokus and theological pondering was avoided. It´s not an album of a seeker, or about one´s initiation, or to lecture, but about the Devil and the Devil only! An impulsive work stripped down to the very basics that maybe could have been released in the 1990s.” And that’s what this album is. At it’s nadir, a masturbation of a past there’s no returning to, onanating a movement Abigor flat-out refused to become associated tightly with, during it’s reign. At it’s zenith, a twisted, malformed tribute to what may have been.
It won’t take more than a few seconds of “All Hail Darkness And Evil” to get the hang of things. The old school worship is clear, and the riffs as if lifted from now hallowed classics of the era, but the sound is thick and crusty – the atmospheric chord movements break the surface, and Silenius’ vocal performance may be the most unhinged and over-the-top this Summoning alumnus has ever channeled. Likewise the riffs bend and coil into each other at pace and rhythm unique to the band’s earlier work – whereas the strong presence of bass, occasionally even taking the lead, is characteristic of later undertakings.
Höllenzwang makes clear difference to it’s predecessors with it’s loose, almost improvisational structure, further implementing a sense of dread and madness to their amalgamation. Grand Declaration of War is one of the few noteworthy comparisons I can think of for the record, a surprise considering the inspiration for the origins behind this undertaking, as Abigor melds their own unique brand of black metal to a more classic style, without forgetting all the tricks they’ve learned along the way. At the end of the day though, Höllenzwang is a tribute to a past that doesn’t belong to the Austrians, an alternate take on their beginnings. A great album that ultimately fails to sate the appetite it built up.
3,5/5 Flaming toilets ov Hell
For me, this year has fast tracked into becoming that of symphonic black metal. I’ve been digging hard into some older ones, as well as familiarized myself with few upcoming records, and the blame – ultimately, falls on Vargrav. Found three years ago by V-Khaoz, a veteran of many marinades, to evoke the spirit of old. To tell tales of times when Dimmu Borgir wasn’t a swear word and Obtained Enslavement contended for many a throne. By modern standards, Vargrav is hardly a heavily symphonic unit – no string sections or choirs are heard and grandiose pomp overlooked in favour of cosmos sought.
With no prior releases to the public, Netherstorm is a gambit, with a remarkable pay-off. Composed of no more than five song actuals, ranging between six and ten minutes, and an outro. Each characterized by heavy use of keyboards, but never wrestling power from the riff, an illness so many bands seeking symphonic grandeur succumb to. Whether the pictorial, cosmic malevolence of “Shadows Secrets Unmasked” where keys and guitar take turns to lead, or the melodic fury of the title-track where the two work in harmony without unison, it is with the riffs that this album grows and diminishes. Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk is the obvious comparison, through the similar use of the two elements, each weaving a web of their own, to be entwined at heart, and the presence of an “Ancient Queen” cover only fortifies this.
Though Vargrav’s approach to songwriting is more ascetic than many of it’s inspirations, there’s not a dull moment present, and frankly – Netherstorm rules butts. It’s ample, spacious feel evokes memories of an ethereal dread – the echoing vocals buried in the weight of the cosmos and hissing, even electronic soundscape offer little relief.
4,5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Last time I lamented Horna no longer putting out music half as actively as they used to, but in light of this split being released on the exact same day as Kuolleiden Kuu, the complaint seems rather pointless. It was, however, recorded much later, with a different line-up, featuring the debut studio performance of LRH, as well as the goodbye of Hex Inferi, Horna’s bassist of choice for the decade. The former’s fluency on the kit lends the songs a newfound admiration of an older age of intricacy.
Their half of the split is more of the same musically, riddled with fierce riffs and ice cold melodies, Spellgoth’s hoarse, clear command over the scape, but not completely without new tricks. “Nielkää Tuhkaa!” with it’s bent riffs is a standard late Horna song, but the sound is far clearer, less primal and brutal than it’s predecessors’, though the majesty of “Kohti Myrskujen Vuosia” and quasi-thrash riffing on “Kielletyn Tulen Kantaja” draw the longest straws.
Pure is another project of the Swiss Bornyhake, the mastermind behind atmospheric and industrial Borgne, as well as the second-wave classicists Enoid, whom we recently had the pleasure of streaming. Pure is the outlet for some of his rawest expression, collaborating with Blut Aus Nord/Acherontas/Waytoomanyo drummer Thorns.
Bearing a strong stylistic similarity to the first half, Pure offers a greater dynamic between the softer sections and rawer onslaught. By their own measure the material presented is not especially raw, Bornyhake’s screaming, and the chunky, viscous cloud of freezing atmosphere (don’t some of those contradict each other? Hopefully.) occasionally reach heights proportionate to J’aurais Dû but otherwise it seems tempered to approach Horna’s style.
Both bands perform up to standards, but no song, from either band, is very memorable and are hardly going to become mainstays in either bands’ set. I rejoice that a record of this medium (cursed be the split) was so well made, balanced out and even between the bands, and of satisfactory length but cannot escape the feeling of a minor work.
3/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Should you so choose, you can find each, Vargrav, Horna, Abigor and Pure on Facebook for purposes of stalking nature.