Abbath does have more of a pristine digital sound to it, which actually works with the trio’s venomous, fiery output. The hostility is captured perfectly, Abbath’s signature vocal approach comes through well enough with some additional heat when necessary, and the drums often bring in enough of a thunderous presence to fill the varying epic-sounding performances quite nicely. This presentation is a touch that often casts storm clouds over lava filled warfields littered with the dead and gods or general that stand atop them, largely walking the line between standard second generation that made Immortal a black metal household name, and the modern third wave approach full of blistering bass kicks and hostility.
But the main allure behind Abbath isn’t the production or mastering distancing itself from the past, but rather the hooks. There are plenty of melodies present through much of the album, all of which are greatly welcome in aiding the atmosphere of the recording in being as dark and stormy as possible. For example, “Winterbane” doesn’t exactly sound like something created on the frostbitten tundras or in any mystical forest where occults practice their rituals, but rather the middle of a terrible storm with rain splattering on the ground as war wages on around the minstrels that recount the tales of those very deeds. It’s like a less glorious Amon Amarth for the black metal community, not to mention some drum patterns reminiscent of commanding rhythms from bands like Rammstein, specifically “Links 2, 3, 4”, but obviously without the industrial elements. The closest you get is some additional keyboard notes that creep in out of nowhere during “Ashes of the Damned”, and an odd conclusion that feels like a rip off of the opening and main verses of “Heavy Metal Thunder” by Godiva.
Of course, you wouldn’t quite know any of that given how it all starts off. “To War!” introduces more of a groovier thrash metal presence, setting up a gloomy, yet head bobbingly catchy presence as the troops march to war. The melodies and subtle bass presence can lead you to expect clean singing to come out of the same random place the aforementioned keyboard notes reared their heads from, but its a red herring rectified ninety seconds in as the music shifts to a tense, eerie black metal style reminiscent of 1349 or Ov Hell, but with just enough of a ritualistic sensation to the guitars and vocals that add a more unique flair to the mix. And then there’s “Count the Dead”, a throwback to the latter days of Immortal crossed with Mercyful Fate, as if picking up where I left off upon being put on hold following their wildly successful 2006 debut Between Two Worlds.
There’s a good deal of variety to the black metal world being woven in Abbath that spans through the styles origins to where it has evolved to today. It’s a commendable effort that had an underlying epic vibe that will get the blood pumping when you first pick up on it. Unfortunately, that sudden rush doesn’t stay as strong beyond the first few spins. After that, the novelty of a multi-era spanning homage to such a prolific style from one of its most influential members can sometimes feel a little less honest when throwing some absolutely random two-step in on “Endless” when not needed, the odd change and vocal distortion on “Ashes of the Damned” that is unnecessary, as well as sounding a like near carbon copy of Behemoth during “Fenrir Hunts”. Outside the melodic bits and a change to something more unique by the half-way point, there’s little that makes this track sound like anything more than a cut from Demigod that you’d swear somehow was mislabeled and worked its way into the playlist.
Those cosmetic choices aside, Abbath does still live up to the expectations fans of the namesake’s previous works impose on the man. Grim, forlorn, and war-torn blackened anthems line nearly each of the eight performances, many holding a relatively unique presence that stands quite far apart from the Immortal roots of the member it bases its name on, and you really can’t ask for anything more other than a reactivation of I, but, really, this is the closest we’ll probably get to that any time soon. So, if you’re a fan of the style or the work of any of the three involved, Abbath does plenty right to keep the listener not only engaged, but coming back for repeat spins.