Abigail Williams – The Accuser (2015)

The accuser

I had high hopes for The Accuser… of a sort. I was expecting an ungainly, melodramatic symphonic black metal ala Dimmu Borgir. Unfortunately, Dimmu Borgir hasn’t released an album for Abigail Williams to ape in over five years!  Cue the necessary stylistic shift, and the dashing of my admittedly dubious hopes, founded on information about this band that was similarly out of date. The Accuser is one of those indie-darling post-black metal albums, and while it’s usually not as blatant about its weepy, depressive influences as Deafheaven or Myrkur (whom I always seem to mention in pairs), it’s still a pretty flat and bland experience.

Abigail Williams’ latest actually pulls on a fairly wide mixture of post-black approaches, although they are generally united by a consistent production. The production team decided to portray this band as just fuzzy and indistinct enough to possibly pass as ‘true’ for a moment, but not enough that the intended audience would complain about a garbled aesthetic. There’s also the occasional awkward high pitched scream strewn in the mix, but it’s an otherwise standard sound. Within this, Abigail Williams explores such things as jangling consonant guitar leads, lengthy drone sections, start-stop riffing, and so forth. Now, there is nothing innately anything about musical techniques, and this is especially the case on this album, where the songwriting is haphazard at best. The difficulty that you often run into with this sort of musical language is that it’s difficult to build off these ideas in any way, whether it be the standard theme and development shtick we advocate around here, a more ambient approach, or much of anything, really. In general, Abigail Williams has a serious problem gluing things together and seemingly tries to hide it with minor stylistic shifts within and between tracks; regardless of their intent they don’t manage to pull off such subterfuge.

For whatever small reasons, I don’t find this album quite as annoying as many of its genre contemporaries. It still is, however, a boring listen that does little of interest with the hand of tricks it’s taken.

Deafheaven – New Bermuda (2015)

Deafheaven - New Bermuda (2015)
On a less rigorous, and slightly looser site, my thoughts on New Bermuda could be expressed as something along the lines of “whatever”. The music here has been performed before by a cavalcade of metal-themed indie acts, each more individual and revolutionary than the last, yet stunningly conformist for their efforts. Deafheaven enjoys rather more media attention at the moment, even sometimes drawing our attention for their little escapades, but they’re pretty much cut from the same fabric – a few hints of loud guitars and blast beats to liven up boring sugary pop stretched far beyond the limits of its songwriting.

The stylistic deception is pretty shallow, to be honest. I found it mildly amusing that the album began with a few minutes of more overtly black metal flavored material, which was then abruptly cast off in favor of the basic rock riffing and reverb textures that Deafheaven seem to so particularly enjoy. It returns every now in then in case you forget you’re supposed to be listening to the future of black metal, but I can confidently say New Bermuda relies more on the band’s rudimentary modality (major-minor ad infinitum) than their rudimentary dynamics to occasionally wake up a sleepy listener when the soothing, inoffensive guitar strumming has lulled them into a dreamless slumber. The drumming in these sections gradually devolves into basic modern rock downbeats and timekeeping, as if to represent your transition towards a drowsy (indie) state of mind. That probably wasn’t the intent, but the idea that it could’ve been is dangerously tempting.

Now, I’m not the kind of person who tries to fall asleep to music, but were I to treat this as a collection of lullabies, it would still be fairly underwhelming. That it has loud sections at all is counterproductive for insomniacs, but even those are rather predictable in how they play out. The straight ahead black metal sections consistently move sluggishly under the blastbeats, with a vocalist who has learned but one type of shriek and a few basic vocal rhythms. Given how Deafheaven is marketed, that these sections sound like an afterthought is problematic. Maybe the album would be better if it was divested of the clearly unwanted black metal, but then you’d be left with just another unwashed (but charmingly patchouli and spice scented) post-rock/emo/indie-pop album essentially indistinguishable from all the others and guaranteed to gather dust after something newer and more exciting comes out.

I slept well last night. What about you?