Even if you don’t like Black Metal or even Metal in general you probably still know Abbath. Promo photos of the pale faced purveyors of the black arts have long been email joke and internet meme fodder and Abbath is the barrel chested, axe wielding end level boss of them all. Similarly, the Norwegian legend born Olve Eikemo has come under fire in the Metal community for his part in last year’s dissolution of his former band, the long lived and highly influential Immortal, and the fact that that the same thing happened to his current band shortly after this very recording. Both guitarist Per Valla and drummer Kevin “Creature” Foley claim the split was amicable but it doesn’t take a corpse painted Dr. Phil to tell that Abbath may not be the easiest person in the world to work with. Still, none of that crap matters if the record, Abbath’s recently released first self-titled solo venture post-Immortal, isn’t any good, but that isn’t a worry, because I’m here to tell you that the record is very, very good indeed.
Separating the art itself from the man behind it, as it should be, this thing moves. Snow crushed beneath hooves gives way to the majestic splendor of an invading armada, brutal buzzsaw riffs and a wall of blastbeats lent an atmosphere of regal, battle hardened sophistication, before the air is broken by the signature rasp and rapid fire delivery of the man himself. High points like the opening “To War!” and follow up “Winterbane” stay on the warpath leading to the record’s halfway point and apex that is the absolute thrash tremor ‘Fenrir Hunts”. The entire LP flows beautifully though, with one last nasty shock of the low key dirge “Root of the Mountain” only being the prequel for closing motor mouthed grind scorcher “Endless”.
While we love it when innovative artists twist and shape the tenets of Black Metal into their own gnarled image, that appreciation only makes it more special when an album like this comes along and takes the form back to its glorious basics with a deft and flawless execution. This release, truly a blast of fresh, violent, icy northern air, proves that in 2016, Black Metal as a vibrant, vital, relevant genre and Abbath as its chief creator, truly are immortal.