2004, Morbid Wrath Records
This is just one of those albums where anything I could say would pale in comparison to the basic, primal (essential) experience of just listening to it for yourself, taking it in, letting it settle slowly into your mind, life, etc. and, accordingly, I'm not going to bother trying to fly to absurd heights (as I used to do in the past when encountering art like this) in florid, rabid descriptions and listener exhortation or absurd musical flattery. Abazagorath know they are a capable band…they've been around for quite some time now (since the summer of 1995), they have weathered changes in the scene, alterations in the movement, the decline and fall or contrasted rise of their peers…they don't need me to compliment them or smother them in undue sycophancy, I'll leave that to other magazines. However…how do I know they are a "capable" group, that they have a certain maturity of approach, patience, intent, and compositional concentration? It's all in the music - where it belongs.
What I like the most about this album is its pacing, then, its easy sense of luxuriant, unwearied (almost serene) timing, the way it just opens so slowly and spreads itself in front of you without undue haste and without (certainly) an ungraceful, awkward rush to impress you with extremity in any musical category. This is not to say it's boring music, or that it fails to impress the listener, no, it's just that in an age where every fly-by-night new black or death metal band rushes to the (not divine) gate of potential listeners' ears with some new fad or technological/technical thrill, some supposedly new innovation in motivic deliverance, musical mordancy, etc. Abazagorath are content to rest easy, relax, and just let their melodic worlds speak for them. I think this shows a certain…confidence, a reliance on the music itself, a belief in what they have created, and a willingness to let the hard work they have obviously put into these compositions serve as signifiers of their dedication to the left hand path…they have no reason to flail about in unwarranted jeremiads or bids for your attention. No, this band - at least at this point in their careers - are in it for the music alone, seemingly, and that "pure" dedication, that basic realization (of where to place their priorities) on their part has only helped them construct songs worth listening to.
Indeed it is not until the third song, "And The Skies Opened", with its strange, bouncing, punk-like opening riff (which is then translated into glorious tremolo-picked, trilling, upwards-flying black metal urgency) that we have some sense of pressure here, or some not-so-subtle hint of dark energy outstripping its purveyors (one of my favorite aspects of black metal, the eye of Our Lord being shown in this), although both the first and second songs (especially the utterly epic "Ancient Steel") convince with their compositional mastery and idiosyncratic melodic weight, their purity of design, their balance of scene-specific traditional representations and personal expression. As the album progresses it widens and deepens, expanding (as described above) to embrace so many variant offshoots of black and dark death metal melodic/compositional mini-traditions (each a potential or dead scene in itself) that it's just obvious these guys have been into this "kind" of music for a long, long time and have a great deal of experience with it, both playing and listening. It's that richness, that flexibility of potential, that ease of transition between isolated, individual compositional avenues and ideas/approaches that really marks this band as something unique - especially within the American scene - and makes them, in my opinion, worth turning to with reverence when one really wants to hear this type of music done with emotion, tact, skill, and integrity. There isn't any value in continued attempts to describe their qualities...one just has to listen to this album, words can only carry me (and the reader) so far.
"Sacraments of the Final Atrocity", then, is an instant classic…indeed it is one of the best black metal albums I have ever heard from an American band, if not the best - hands down. It is exquisitely rendered, professionally recorded and arranged, turned with a artful expert's eye and able hand, filled with absolutely beautiful melodies, fulgent, weighty words, epic, stirring themes, instrumental proficiency (listen to how well the bass is recorded and how much this instrument adds to the music), and touches upon, as I said above, almost every single microgenre of black metal with consummate, professional ease. It is, in my opinion, a masterpiece of dark art.