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Abigor - Nachthymnen (From the Twilight Kingdom)
Review: Representing what is most likely the artistic peak of Abigor, this album both includes songwriting that goes from one point to another without dropping into a cycle of divergent ideas, and some of the most beautiful melodic lines crafted by these Austrians.
It is "simpler" in that there are fewer riffs of fewer notes and often these riffs resemble the basics of black metal (think Belial) when used in an interstitial capacity, but it is more complex than most Abigor releases because each song follows a melodic line and therefore all its riffs must fit together into not only a coherent whole but a language for contextualizing that melodic line as a meaningful communication. There is still a tendency to fall into abstruse songwriting that figures if a following riff differs from its predecessor, it can stand in as an opposite theme, and be bounced off a third and fourth riff until a roundrobin sense of cycling between ideas returns us to ground we thankfully accept as some sense of order -- the first riff.
However, this tendency is minimized, and song structures expand as a result to the point where many songs on this CD feature fully developed "movements" of conflicting motives stacked in a way to reveal something missing from the initial theme that opens the song. It is lower-tech than the classics of Nordic black metal, in that the lengthy melodies of Enslaved or Immortal are missing, as is the gradual descent into mood that qualified Burzum; this more accurately resembles the work of Finnish bands in that the riffs which define each song are so iconographic they capture the shape from a distance of what these songs are designed to impress upon us.
Generally, three note extensions and some form of rising or falling geometric pattern define such themes, and joining riffs are often one and two-note rhythmic patterns. Some of the beauty of countrymates Summoning can be found, but this album lacks the patience that makes black metal great; it is in too much of a hurry to all out blast, or to drop in sung interludes like the ludicrous antechamber to "Scars in the Landscape of God." There's not much to argue with as far as the canon of black metal techniques and imagery goes, but what keeps this out of the first-tier of black metal bands is that there's not much to argue for, either.
Like later Mayhem, it seems an attempt to discover what made a movement significant from outside, when what gave it the strength to do what it did was entirely inside -- if there is soul to metal music, that is it, and too much of that is missing from this energetic but aimless release.