Abigor - Official Website


Verwustüstung / Invoke The Dark Age

Austria Country of Origin: Austria

1. Universe Of Black Divine
2. Kingdom Of Darkness
3. Beneath A Steel Sky
4. Eye To Eye At Armageddon
5. In Sin
6. My Soft Vision In Blood
7. Weeping Midwinter Tears
8. Diabolic Unity
9. A Spell Of Dark And Evil


Review by Benjamin on January 11, 2022.

Spinning Abigor’s debut Verwüstung / Invoke The Dark Age in 2021, it would be simple to dismiss them as derivative imitators of the giants of classic second wave black metal (most obviously Emperor, who they share the most significant similarity with). However, the chronology places them much closer to the epicentre of that particular cultural earthquake than they are generally given credit for, this album arriving in the same year as Emperor’s "In The Nightside Eclipse" debut full-length, as well as a host of other classics of the black metal canon, not least "Transilvanian Hunger", and "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas". It is clear that, in fact, Abigor should be considered alongside the masters, rather than classified alongside the many also-rans of the genre. It’s possible that Abigor’s geographic displacement is partially responsible for some overlooking their contribution to the development of the genre, black metal existing as a relatively insular and outsider scene in 1994, some way removed from the global phenomenon that it is today. Where Scandinavian passports and even the most tenuous links to Euronymous’s inner circle conferred instant credibility on a host of bands, Abigor’s Austrian heritage meant that they were operating in something of a vacuum, even if their membership of the Austrian Black Metal Syndicate was presumably designed to create the same kind of mystique and self-mythological atmosphere that hung like a (funeral) fog around the Oslo and Bergen bands.

The other factor that may have contributed to Abigor’s second tier status is the fact that unlike Emperor or Ulver, they didn’t arrive at their first official release fully-formed and with a perfectly realised sound, and in fact took a few albums to develop their idiosyncratic brand of black metal into its richest and most sophisticated iteration. This is not to criticise Verwüstung / Invoke The Dark Age unduly, and in some respects its flaws form part of its charm and appeal, but we should also acknowledge that although many of the band’s component parts are present and correct from the outset, they have been assembled here in a somewhat haphazard way, without the kind of unlikely fluidity that characterises Nachthymnen, or the outstanding Supreme Immortal Art. The prime example of this is the track that is in many ways the highlight of the album as a whole, ‘Weeping Midwintertears’. The arrangement is utterly frustrating; the first half of the song dominated by an overly melodic and slightly jarring guitar figure that falls a little short of the frigid and frostbitten atmosphere that one feels the band are shooting for, before the tranquil piano and martial drum tattoo instantaneously transport the listener to a pre-modern battlefield setting, conjuring images of a band of pagan soldiers preparing to defend themselves from crusading hordes. The early morning mist settles, until it is brutally lacerated by the scything blade of a tremolo riff so dramatic and rousing that it could drive the most peace-loving hippie straight to the front lines. A riff to fill the heart of the most apathetic with righteous fury and fighting spirit, it is simply a masterful display of metallic supremacy, and a moment unequalled on the rest of the album, but indicative of the kind of inspiration that Abigor are clearly capable of. One can only imagine what Abigor might have achieved with this track one or two years down the line, but as it is, the final two minutes of ‘Weeping Midwintertears’ are the apex of an album full of impressive moments, even if it fails to cohere into a unified piece of work as one might hope it would.

Another integral feature of the Abigor sound, at least during the early phase of their career is the almost romantic yearning for a reversion to medieval times. We see this at various points during this album and the next, not least in their stated titular desire to invoke the dark age, but most overtly during the lengthy intro to second track ‘Kingdom Of Darkness’, which recreates the sound of weary soldiers drowning their sorrows in ale, within the confines of a medieval tavern, before heading once more unto the breach. While not exactly anomalous in the context of the wider black metal scene both then and now, Abigor’s devotion to this aesthetic was especially dedicated, and certainly across their first three albums at least, it was an echo that constantly reverberated throughout their work. For Abigor, this yearning seems to be embodied, both sonically and thematically by an embrace of chaos, which also provides a link with their otherwise difficult to reconcile devotion to theistic Satanism. Indeed, the first part of their dual-pronged title, Verwüstung translates to ‘havoc’, or ‘chaos’, and the way in which the band embrace unconventional song structures, containing numerous tempo changes, together with intricate riffs and counterpoint melodies in the guitars assailing the listener from an array of unpredictable angles is as tumultuous as their grim lyrical content. This restless compositional approach is frequently striking, the band rarely sitting on a riff or melody for very long, and the thrillingly scattergun drum performance of Abigor mainstay T.T. plays a substantial role in a musical backdrop that is constantly arranging and re-arranging itself, a sick kaleidoscope which never stops turning, every beat an opportunity for a lightspeed fill or a slight variation on the double-bass pattern that underpins much of the band’s barrage. This does mean that the band rarely drop into a groove in the way that some of their peers are able to, but it also makes for a fascinating listen, and demonstrates the sheer level of musical ambition latent in Abigor’s early material, an ambition which will ultimately flourish a couple of short years into the future.

It’s worth considering at this point exactly what it is about medieval, or at least pre-modern themes, that continues to resonate so strongly across metal as a whole. A nostalgic, or even sentimental longing for the past can be found throughout much pagan folk metal, with bands across Europe mining pre-Christian (and occasionally nationalist, sometimes unfortunately racist) folk mythology for lyrical content and personal philosophy, and the same can be said for the sword and loincloth end of traditional heavy metal and doom, even if this is frequently blended with a hefty dose of fantasy, and a greater emphasis on conventional notions of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. In black metal (although this does not especially apply to Abigor themselves), this longing often takes the form of a reverence for nature, turning the face of mankind away from technology, and towards the forests and mountains, totems invested with such value-laden concepts as wisdom and purity. In some respects, possibly the simplest explanation for this ongoing fascination is simply that bands such as Ulver, Emperor and more recently Panopticon and Wolves In The Throne Room were and are unavoidably roused by the awe-inspiring nature of their surroundings. Although there is surely some truth in this hypothesis, it also seems possible that there is something deeper at work here. Perhaps metal (and maybe humanity more widely) is most comfortable in a simple, Manichean world; a world in which God battles the Devil, ‘we’ define ourselves in opposition to ‘them’, and morality needs to be no more complex than ‘kill or be killed’. Possible these archetypes represent an escape from a modern world in which intersectional identity politics throw up intractable questions for the masses to squabble over, while we conspire to ignore the inescapable impact of the inevitable climate apocalypse. Before we travel too far down this theoretical road, however, we should note that some of the most exciting extreme music of the 2020s is being made by bands and individuals that address precisely some of these issues, from the folk-noise of Lingua Ignota, to the ambient doom of Divide // Dissolve, by way of the anti-racist spiritual-metal of Zeal & Ardor. Clearly, the different thematic facets of metal can co-exist, and metal itself is capable of becoming a vehicle for a plurality of ideas and identities, although it is likely that the pull of the darker ages will never be something that the genre completely escapes, even if it is just as a contrarian reaction to modernity.

Irrespective of Abigor’s national heritage or philosophy though, on the musical front, their debut is an uneven, but thrilling, mix of everything that characterised second wave black metal in 1994, with a few unique touches that ensure the band occupy a niche entirely of their own. The aforementioned ‘Kingdom Of Darkness’ (once the intro eventually fades) is a riot of treble-heavy buzzsaw riffing and propulsive, clattering drumming, and although the band’s songwriting isn’t as mature as it will eventually become, they already have a good feel for when to rein in their penchant for neo-classical flourishes in favour of the kind of ragged minor key thrash that the band drop into part way through the track, before more intricate guitar work rides the rolling thunderstorm of T.T.’s relentless blasting. This particular track also excavates some classic death metal influences, utilising the kind of infernal harmonies that light up Morbid Angel’s "Altars Of Madness" to ever so briefly create the kind of sound that might now be referred to as ‘blackened death metal’, although like many of the band’s ideas, it is mercilessly killed almost as soon as it is conceived, as the band are unable to staunch the endless flow of riffs and melodies. At this point in the eruption of black metal, the tectonic plates of metal shifting irrevocably, many of the key players were, of course, distancing themselves from their death metal roots (although Emperor, among others, would ultimately revisit the genre before long), so it is interesting to witness Abigor allowing themselves such a freedom at such an early point in their discography.

‘My Soft Vision In Blood’ is another magnificent highlight, and sees the extensive use of what will become something of a trademark for the band. As if the artillery blast of T.T.’s snare and toms were not warlike enough, the band frequently accentuate their drum patterns with huge, booming timpani hits, for additional dramatic effect. The only band approximately in the same field that do something comparable would be Summoning, a band that also feature Abigor’s sometime vocalist Silenius, but although that band nominally operate within the black metal genre, mainly as a result of their relatively orthodox debut "Lugburz", their later use of similar sounds within their Tolkien-obsessed orchestral extremity provides a totally different context to Abigor’s bestial backdrop. As intriguing as this peculiar touch is though, and as much as it contributes to the overall feeling of esoteric weirdness, the real excitement comes from the spidery twin harmonies, building fractal paths to a fiery underworld, brick by brick, each note a step closer to Satanic deliverance. The song is also draped in diaphanous veils of lush and expansive synths, and although to modern ears the somewhat plastic sounds of the keyboards may sound a little hokey, to this listener it is an immediate and goosebump-inducing line straight to the heart of everything that made mid-90s black metal so simultaneously bewildering and appealing, an appeal only deepened by the terrific Burzum-aping keyboard coda.

Even in Verwüstung‘s not quite so spine-tingling moments, it’s maintains a more than serviceable quality. Opening track ‘Universe Of Black Divine’ is hampered by the clunky transitions between sections, and at times feels a little like unrelated riffs and melodies simply stitched together in a way that reveals a clear lack of maturity and experience, but it doesn’t make the classic metal harmonies of the closing lead guitar lines that dominate the latter part of the track any less majestic. Abigor here are a crumbling castle on the precipice of a vertiginous canyon, epic grandeur teetering on the edge of collapse. Similarly, even if the more than adequate ‘Eye To Eye At Armageddon’ sees a more prominent use of synths that lead it a little bit close to Emperor’s "In The Nightside Eclipse" for comfort, the icy blasts are still very nearly as awe-inspiring as their Norwegian peers. Furthermore, the slower elements of the song, grinding and oppressive like a gradually spreading plague, combined with the folky melodies that occupy the guitars add something different enough to ensure that Abigor rise above the ranks of mere imitators. The closing track proper, ‘Diabolic Unity’ is one song too far, however; generic black metal that adds little individuality to a Taake / Gorgoroth-style blitz, but on an album that is not particularly lengthy, it is a distant memory before it can create any serious damage to the overall impression of the album. Verwüstung utterly embodies the appeal of mid-90s black metal, at a time when the strangeness inherent in the anti-commercial sounds and tempos, and labyrinthine song structures, had yet to be erased by narrowing genre conventions and stratifying norms. It may not be the kind of iconic work that some of the giants of the genre would release at around this time, and it may not be the band’s most definitive work either, but it is nothing less than a curious and rewarding window into what was happening in the slightly more obscure reaches of the nascent black metal genre in 1994, and still sounds startling and exciting today.

Rating: 7 out of 10

First published here:
https://alifetimeofmusic.wordpress.com

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Review by Felix on September 10, 2019.

The initial spirit of the so-called second wave of black metal has nothing loss of its fascination during the last decades. Of course, it is long gone, but a handful of bands were able to catch it on their debuts and to preserve it. Abigor's first album belongs to this precious works. The trio from Austria did not play typical black metal, but exactly the individual approach shows the artistic liberty during the early days. These free minds did not think about self-limitation, but they also did not think about the intentional mixing of styles that do not belong together.

Abigor's debut consists of atmospheric sections with almost dreamful guitars, medieval chants and, of course, a lot of harsh, cruel and sometimes icy black metal. The album suffers from its poor production that lacks pressure and vigor - or is this mix rather part of its charm? Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age does not sound perfect, that's true, but it expresses all the mental pain of its creators in a fascinating manner. "Kingdom of Darkness" constitutes the first song which bundles all strengths of the band and its eight minutes pass in a flash. This track emphasizes impressively that one can spit on conventional song patterns without creating inaccessible, overly complex or progressive pieces. The band has enough creativity to connect its dark force with melodic sequences which hit the target. "Eye to Eye at Armageddon" is another highlight that features the multi-layered competences of the band, although the timpani’s of "Kingdom of Darkness" do not reappear here. That's a pity, because they work as a link to the first wave of the sub-genre, namely Celtic Frost...

...but they show up again in the beginning and in later sequences of "My Soft Vision in Blood" and add their typical majestic touch. This slow-moving song also belongs to my personal favorites. It drags on and on in an almost painful manner, just like a dying creature on its last meters. Its great ending with a soft melody appears as the savior of the track, it's simply intriguingly executed. And that's not all, the then still pretty original combination of an ultra-raw voice and a non-metallic, melodic instrumentation gives the first section of "Weeping Midwintertears" a very special note. No doubt, this band saw no boundaries during the recordings, nevertheless, the dudes never betrayed the spirit of the sub-genre. Quite the opposite, Verwüstung / Invoke the Dark Age can be seen as a pretty spiritual work. This is not to say that it lacks metallic fury. Abigor do not play softball games, they just add various different impulses. Only the two short keyboard numbers are not really necessary. Silenius should have used them for a Summoning album.

Either way, this album has stand the test of time - and that's unfortunately no matter of course when it comes to Abigor. But this full-length tells us a lot about the early days of the second wave and it holds seven good or even outstanding compositions, written by free minds. Only fools would doubt the leading position of Norway in terms of the misanthropic atmosphere that expressed itself in the first works of the bands from the fjords. Nevertheless, some bands from other countries also left their footprint and Abigor was definitely one of them.

Rating: 8 out of 10

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Review by Allan on March 30, 2002.

One look at the album cover and liner notes will indicate to you that Abigor are in fact black metal. Liner note photos of band members with corpsepaint may make you laugh, but despite this, the music that Abigor has created for this album is a well constructed. “Verwüstung/Invoke The Dark Age” is an underrated atmospheric black metal opus.

This album is what black metal is about. It’s very solid. Not a weak track on here, it seems like a convoy to somewhere, instead of running into the ground. It is constantly progressing as an album. Excellent atmosphere is conveyed here also. It’s dark, mysterious, angry, loud, melodic, etc. The guitar lines are very convincing and well fitting. They are strong and sharp, instead of dull and monotonous. Part of the reason this album is great is because of the bands ability to compose well. They aren’t always stuck at one tempo, know when to bring in new elements, and know when to change the mood to something more satisfying. The tracks and elements of the album distinguish themselves from each other, instead of being an indiscernible blend. Abigor had the right idea when composing this album.

Bottom Line: I don’t know why this band is as underrated as they are. While not completely original, they are not a copy of the rest of the scene. They are a strong unit and beat out many other black metallers with their strong song writing and ideas. This is an excellent place to start if you’ve never heard Abigor before, and it’s a great album to own if you enjoy black metal.

Categorical Rating Breakdown

Originality: 7
Musicianship: 8.5
Atmosphere: 9.5
Production: 8
Overall: 9

Rating: 8.4 out of 10

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