Sunday 14 September 2014

Abazagorath - The Satanic Verses (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 7/10/2014
Label: Eternal Death

‘The Satanic Verses’ CD/DD track listing:

1). Mahound (07:47)
2). Satanic Verses (09:09)
3). The Angel Gabriel (05:34)
4). Revelations (01:44)
5). Ayesha (01:47)
6). Visions of Azrael (05:36)  
7). Return to Jahilia (08:59)
9). Gharaniq (04:30)
10). Conclusion (02:13)


Few things define the American black metal aesthetic as well as Abazagorath’s 19 year reign. Formed in 1995, ABAZAGORATH reflects the initiates' deepest fantasies of hatred, war, melancholy, darkness, evil, the occult and death. Abazagorath is one of the first (and longest lasting) bands of the United States Black Metal movement. Driven by founding member Warhead's inner demons, savage drumming and a fiercely satanic agenda, Abazagorath has delivered a varied and dynamic approach on each of their savage releases.

Highlights of the band's storied career include the highly influential Tenebrarum Cadent Exsergemus 1997 debut album, the cult blasphemous follow up Sacraments of the Final Atrocity, tours in 2004 (Europe with Demoncy and Krieg) and 2011 (The eastern U.S. with Proclamation and Ipsissimus), and various EPs, demos, and chaotic live performances. With the band's self-titled EP and tours/shows across the U.S. in 2011 and 2012, Abazagorath ended a 6 year studio and live hiatus and returned with a redefined sound darker, more technical, and mature than the majority of their USBM counterparts


Abazagorath is a name that’s been a mainstay of American black metal for 18 years, and while they’ve released 2 splits and an EP, ‘The Satanic Verses’ is their first full length in 10 years. Much like the newest Internal Bleeding was for death metal in 2014, ‘The Satanic Verses’ is in a lot of ways a throwback. It hits a great number of the hallmarks of 90s black metal throughout the album’s fifty-two minutes. There’s plenty to enjoy on an album like this, but there is at least one major issue, which I will get into first.

‘The Satanic Verses’ certainly doesn’t put its best foot forward. Much of the album’s first two songs feel very paint-by-numbers. They aren’t bad songs, they just feel flat and kind of slapdash. The title track in particular feels bloated and drags at just over nine minutes long. That kind of shit might fly for Moonsorrow, where there are a ton of elements being utilized and explored, but for a band like Abazagorath, it just screams for some self-editing. In fact, you take the first two songs out of the album altogether, you’d have a really good 35 minute album.

The album really gets underway with ‘The Angel Gabriel’, which opens with a vicious but melodic blast, using keyboard choirs for added atmosphere while a locomotive guitar riff to pushing things with a real sense of urgency, as if the album were just jerked out of a sound sleep. One minute in, the album truly picks up with the sort of galloping heavy metal riff Abbath has been working into albums like ‘I’ and post Demonaz Immortal, only this might be an even better version of that. The song sets into a really nice mid tempo groove at that point, calling forth a heavy Dissection influence to keep things flowing from a melodic standpoint.

‘Visions of Azrael’ is another standout track. After an opening filled with bombast and zeal, the semi-blasting kicks in and the song hacks away with an onslaught of razor sharp riffs and barbaric kit crushing. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but it’s the quality of the craftsmanship that’s a rare thing. Abazagorath certainly is content to keep things orthodox, but when they’re on top of their game, their as formidable as anyone going today.  

Therein lies the tragedy of those mundane early songs. It leaves a stain of inconsistency on the whole album. Even a song that is similarly long to the title track, ‘Return to Jahlia’, benefits from a wider variety of influences keeping things interesting; including some surprisingly good traditional heavy metal singing at the song’s midpoint. Later on ‘Gharaniq’ features some riffs that show they have a flare for more traditional metal song craft beyond just that one excellent vocal section; it’s something I hope they’ll explore more often on whatever release comes next. Hopefully that isn't 10 years from now. We could all be dead before then.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

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