Note: I came into this review expecting to dislike it from all the negative reviews on this page.
The intro is appropriately symphonic… building to something that is definitely black metal in origin, in “The World Beyond.”
The generic BM gives over about a minute to an absolutely gorgeous melodeath interlude where the guitars keep up mid-tone harmony while the keyboards add a purely classical bed. In fact the keyboards added into the mix on this song sets an incredibly eerie and VERY nice feel.
The second song “Acolytes” recreates some classic Emporer and turns it loose with bits of dissonant chords. With about a minute and a half left we get treated to an Arsis-style solo (Celebration-era) that is just downright evil until it crescendos into a few powermetal chords.
And “A Thousand Suns” instantly gives us a Cynic/Death style (more Cynic) of melodic death metal…
and with about 4min left a fantastic breakdown into some classic BM again. And again the keyboards at about 3min giving it a little jazz/fusion element. The ending is also a perfect release, slow and executed well.
Each song picks up in classical complexity from here and succeeds brilliantly. Actually it manages to do what Psycroptic failed to do last year and completely capitalizes on all the opportunities to do something new and crazy with their music. (Not that classical-tinged BM is new, but Abigail Williams does it WELL!)
I’m going to have to buck the trend of the other reviewers here as there’s much more here for me to listen to than a lot of other bands have given me of late–especially American ones. You scene-metalheads complain all the time about bands who don’t give us nordic-style BM/DM in the US, and you’re given one… and you complain about it? (!) I’ve completed 3 spins and I have to say safely that I’ll listen to this more than anything else I picked up so far this year. Of course, there’s still Nile coming up…
Vocally, you could put Black Dahlia into this and you couldn’t tell the difference. But then, the same could be said for most extreme metal. (Only Mikael Åkerfeldt comes to mind as a distinctive DM vocalist. Maybe David Vincent.)
If you’re a “scene-free” metalhead–and liked “Unhallowed” from Black Dahlia Murder–you do a great disservice by not picking this up. If you’re like me and found other “Symphonic Black Metal” bands such as Zonaria a big disappointment, this disc should perk you up.