Saturday, May 15, 2010

Abigail - Forever Street Metal Bitch

Abigail - Forever Street Metal Bitch
2004, Drakkar Productions

I suppose there are different reasons why potential listeners would be drawn to the new album by this group of revivalists from Tokyo. Some may arrive at an inquisitive listen just by half-heard or quickly glimpsed rumors of their last album, which a number of people in the underground consider to be a sort of standard for the Japanese take on retro black metal...I don't really know...some may come to this based just on Drakkar's reputation or the curiosity engendered by this label relaxing their penchant for monochrome and all things Scandinavian or Gallic in releasing this technicolor Asian curiosity. I guess it doesn't matter. In any case, what we have here is a band fascinated by a long-lost period of '80s thrash metal trying to recreate what, for them, must have been a pleasurable infatuation with the atmosphere and feeling of bands such as Motorhead, Venom, and then (I am guessing here) earlier Japanese hardcore like Gism and Lipcream. So...on this release Abigail sounds like Motorhead filtered through a tighter, more refined Welcome to Hell-era Cronos and company and then injected with the vocals stylings of a SOB or related grind band, overspread with deliberate and obvious nods to Black Sabbath. Closer "War 666" sounds like Metallica. It's a strange, fortunate melding of disparate elements, with the clean uberthrash trebly guitars of Asuka being whipped into an expert frenzy by the crazed kamikaze (sorry for the clich├ęd Oriental adjective, I couldn't avoid the self-indulgence) screams and cries of frontman/bassist Yasuyuki and pulsing trad rock tag-along percussion of Youhei on "hellhammers". That might sound like a tornado of ill-fated characteristics, an unwished-for melange of crass culture references, but it works...and I don't really know why. Is it the conviction on display, the enthusiasm, the sheer delight this band shows in recreating the past? Something else? Just the novelty of the sound? I hope each listener can decide on his or her own.

One thing is easily determined, however: this is not the type of band present on "Intercourse & Lust", so prepare yourself for that.

There is a Sigh connection here as well: Mirai performs two organ solos and comes in on session vocals, as the lyric booklet suggests, and there is an appearance by guitarist Shinichi, who seems to be doubling the string tracks. I have no idea how these two bands are related or why these extra musicians appear here. Perhaps they were just in the right place at the right time?

There is precious little darkness or brooding malevolence to be discovered on this record, and at first that was disconcerting coming from this label, who specialize in all things murky, morbid, and dreary (if not just death-worshipping), but there is enough crystalline nostalgia being distilled on this album to make it listenable and, for an older fan of metal like me who was around when this type of music was first coming out, it can be a welcome return to pleasant memories. This kind of music presents metal at a stage when it was still closely allied to straight hard rock and that purity/simplicity of sound and bouncing enthusiasm in the riffing is amusing to contemplate and fill one's head with in this time of jaded subtleties and world-weary, technical melodic labyrinths. If nothing else the insane Engrish in the lyrics will bring a smile to your face.