Abigor – Höllenzwang: Chronicles of Perdition (2018)

On Höllenzwang, Abigor continue to dabble on the fringes of experimental dark metal while also making a conscious effort at including references to traditional black metal aesthetic. The result is an uneasy alliance and an exhausting listen, where mood and impression frequently overshadow structure. But one gets the feeling that this is a sly and willful obfuscation, and a musical microcosm of the world shifting on its axis, from the old into the new. Höllenzwang may or may not be the finished article of this vision, but it is not without a gravitas of its own, either as resurgent atavism in a post-modern context or as its purported objective declares in more blatant terms, to be hymns of devotion unto the dark adversary of the Semitic religions.

Dissonance without contrast tends to swallow a song’s identity. Abigor don’t shy away from using such as the predominant tool in their arsenal, but theirs is a polyphonic dissonance where different voices, some jarring and others of a more harmonious nature, clash together without pause. This causes very real sensory overload in the listener, not mitigated by overloud drums and underlying chord progressions resembling a vague wash of sound, but conscious effort spent on the interplay of this dark-light dichotomy in the music eventually begins to pay dividends. In all likelihood, again, this is an intentionally subliminal obscuring, for it is inconceivable that these musicians, so formidable in physical execution and grasp of harmony, can remain oblivious to such peripheral aspects of delivery and production. Höllenzwang is loaded to the gills with detail, time signatures, and different modes of articulation, some of which may seem surplus to requirement: it is easy to forgive the band this indulgence when there is even the barest insinuation of connecting melody in the background, perhaps it even points the way forward for black metal, but harder to reconcile for a more conservative mindset are extended passages of what can only be termed abstract textural experimentation.

In this, it is clear that Abigor are toying with listener expectations; they can still break into the kind of sweeping phrases synonymous with the second wave, but playing to the galleries obviously doesn’t much concern the band at this juncture. Höllenzwang carries an unquestionably composed, symphonic spirit, but it is fragmented through and through, and filtered through a lens looking outside the norm for much of the time. Perhaps the meandering musical soliloquy aspect, comprising a good chunk of the album, could be dialed down, but even that appears at one with the technical yet somehow earthy emanation that is the rest of this effort.

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