An enormous outpouring of revolt and resentment had been the most prevalent reaction to media campaign that preceded the official release of Abbath’s eponymous debut album, which I guess should be no news to any metalhead that tends to waste time on social networks, and the lion’s share of that bitterness and criticism was demonstrated by people who labeled themselves as ultraconservative Immortal fans. It was the promotional photo session taken on streets of London that disappointed them the most (that shot in which Abbath blasphemously enjoys a hot dog in particular), probably due to him daring to do something so unforgivably foolish and humiliating as wearing a tux, a corpsepaint and eating a hot dog, all in broad daylight.
To say I was surprised with such a hypocritical reasoning would be an understatement, because if there is one thing Immortal had been known for throughout their entire career, from their first ever video for The Call Of The Wintermoon to their last for All Shall Fall, it was their perpetual habit not to take themselves seriously. There was never a single show, interview or any other kind of public appearance featuring Abbath in any shape or form that didn’t make me laugh, mainly because all his goofiness had always been intentional. So, after so many silly crab walks I can’t even count, how one harmless little hot dog could have raised so many eyebrows? Anyway, it was precisely because of this completely unprincipled attempt at turning iconic, established metal figure into a worthless piece of shit that I decided to support this album prior to even hearing it.
Obviously, what worked to my advantage were those live-in-studio footages of Warriors, Nebular Ravens Winter and Fenrir Hunts, that Season of Mist made available upfront via YouTube. With their reinvigorating energy and professional, tight execution, all three tracks left almost nothing to be desired for, as Abbath’s singing voice and signature riffing style remained distinctive and personal as ever, making it practically impossible to mistake him for someone else, which is a precious quality only a few of his peers are in position to brag about. However, that unique singularity, as valuable and rare as it is among other musicians, often gets overlooked and unappreciated in Abbath’s case, as it defines his legacy for at least two decades now and people tend to take it for granted. Therefore, in order to get his share of praises, to top his previous effort with each new one is a must, and I still haven’t come to terms with whether he completely accomplished that mission with this album or not.
He had wisely selected songs to stream in the announcement of the record though, for they are truly the best ones. Winterbane sounds like something that would have fitted perfectly on All Shall Fall or even At The Heart Of Winter, Ashes Of The Damned with its ferocity and delicate keyboard sequences can serve as a reminder to everybody who haven’t done so in months/years to give Blizzard Beasts another spin, while Count The Dead and Fenrir Hunts are just great tracks with basic yet memorable riff progressions. The rest of the songs, as catchy as they are, have significantly less meat on them and try a bit too hard to benefit on the account of a single addictive hook, apart from the last track Eternal that gloriously closes the curtain on this album and is probably the single best song on it.
In constellation of everything Abbath recorded in his career thus far, this probably falls somewhere in the middle. We’ve seen better from him, just as we’ve certainly seen worse. Season Of Mist’s corporate intentions to squeeze maximum value out of this album, with Abbath shower curtains and whatnot, were definitely a nice addition to the taste of bitterness many felt in their mouth, but I believe that in a few years, when all those things become too distant a past for anybody to still bear grudges, this album will still be deserving of an occasional spin.
(Season Of Mist, 2016)