In The Absence Of Light
27 September 2010
by Tom Dare
The overuse of symphonic keyboards is something of a bugbear amongst those of us who delve into the world of the filthy and wretched. While some bands use them to ornament and texture their work, others either end up smothering their guitar parts with them, or as a smokescreen to obscure a scarcity of ideas. Abigail Williams have previously been accused of the latter, but can be no longer. It’s much worse than that.
On second album In The Absence Of Light, they’ve almost totally abandon the keyboards, possibly because they have parted company with their keyboard player. If you were one of those criticising their use of symphonic elements, in all likelihood you’ll be begging to have them reinstated by the end of the record – at least if you haven’t fallen asleep yet.
Initially there does not appear to be too much wrong – there’s nothing definably terrible on first glance. The riffs seem solidly crafted enough, the vocals are scathing and the drums chaotic. Yet their effect on the listener is negligible – toes do not begin to tap, heads do not bob and nearby goats do not fear sacrifice. An overwhelming feeling of blandness and banality sweeps forth, and the flaws begin to show.
The riffs that initially sound OK are, on closer inspection, largely uninspiring and tired, and at times staggeringly unoriginal. Opener ‘Hope The Great Betrayer’ is underpinned by a guitar part that could easily be mistaken for the seventh best riff on Keep Of Kalessin’s ‘Crown Of The Kings’ and the opening minute or so of ‘The Mysteries That Bind The Flesh’ sounds rather worryingly like a dull rendition Dimmu Borgir’s ‘Allegiance’, to name but two. There are other almost overt references to Watain, King-and-Gaahl-era Gorgoroth, Immortal, Celtic Frost and several other absolutely bleeding obvious bands. This rather painful lack of innovation is problematic, but hardly unusual in the modern era.
Watch Abigail Williams back when they had some ideas and identity of their own:
The reason In The Absence Of Light so firmly faceplants is partially how tediously it is all done but, even more fatally, because Abigail Williams seem to have absolutely no clue what they want to sound like. In black metal, atmosphere is more crucial than the nature of the riffs, brutality of drums or viciousness of vocals. Abigail Williams are prevented from creating any by the clashing of their inspirations – the pure evil of Watain does not mesh with the more mischievous devilry of Immortal and the otherworldly despair of Gorgoroth is completely incompatible with the grandiosity of Dimmu Borgir. No atmosphere is created, no mood achieved and no feeling conveyed. There is obviously an attempt made at sounding in some way negative, but it is so generalised and confused that it has no impact. The net result is a record that does not sound dark, sinister and oppressive; it is merely boring.
There are a few mildly engaging moments, but these are few and far between. The departure of the keyboards has completely hamstrung Abigail Williams, robbing them of their identity, atmosphere and virtually any ideas of interest. The consequence is a record of recycled riffs and tedium. Perhaps overuse of symphonics isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Sounds like: a confused collage of too many other black metal bands
Top tracks: they’re all about as dull as each other
Abigail Williams- In The Absence Of Light tracklisting
Hope The Great Betrayal
Final Destiny Of The Gods
The Mysteries That Bind The Flesh
In Death Comes The Great Silence
What Hells Await Me
An Echo In Our Legends