‘The Great Black Metal War’. Mostly this war is being fought through words on forums of several underground metal fanzines or forum extensions from renowned metal magazines throughout the world. The red line usually is that people have their own ideas about a band being ‘black metal’ or not. Generally speaking, Dimmu Borgir is considered an outcast by the fans of Burzum. ‘It’s not real black metal’, ‘my grandmother listens to that stuff’, ‘I wipe my butt with their cds’; I’ve heard it all. But what is black metal? Is it definable by a certain amount of blasts per second more? A couple of screams pitched a little higher than the average tone?
Let’s take a look at Abominator’s ‘The Eternal Conflagration’ and find out what black metal from Down Under actually is!
For the ones who know the previous records by Abominator already: those people might have an idea of what to expect. Near to continuous blasting, deep screams and highly addictive riffs; what you see is what you get. ‘Mutilate’, the first track, starts with a blood stalling hollow sound, which soon erupts into a fury of fast guitar picking, smashing drums and a litany of grave poetry.
With black metal seldom comes melody, such is the prejudice of non-metal fans. Quite the opposite is true, however: The melodies might not be happy like on your average Rhapsody album, but more dark and repeating; like in ‘Hellfire Armada’.
The overall sound of the record is good; the guitars have a nice distortion on them which let the ‘shreds’ of single notes going up and down in tone come out nicely, the bass gets pushed into the background sometimes, although the foundation is still solid to be able to support the other instruments. Guitar solos seem messy at first sight (think Slayer-style), but there is clearly more structure in them than you’d think at first listen.
Then about the drums: although I was very impressed at the tightness of Volcano’s skills behind the kit, I must say that the snare-drum is being ruled out in some songs. Hence, the only thing you hear are guitars, bass-drums and the occasional hit on the cymbal. A pity, really, because it takes away a lot of song structure which, in case of fast-paced playing bands like Abominator, is quite essential to the listener to keep track of.
Other than that, Volcano’s vocal skills aren’t as stunning as I had imagined when waiting for the first track to come blasting out of the speakers. Where the listener is treated to a full, well-built scream most of the time, there are times that the scream falls back to a raw voice without much energy and power behind it. The vocals have been layered in some songs, meaning a grunt has been implemented to support a scream at the same time and vice-versa. Even through this effect you can hear the fading of Volcano’s scream sometimes, which is a darn pity.
Reflecting on what I’ve heard, I can only conclude that this is no Dimmu Borgir. But does that make Abominator less (or more, for that matter) black metal? No. Abominator is a solid band with tight rhythms, razor sharp guitar riffs and a vocalist who has the capability of expressing his post-mortem message very well. There is just one thing; some elements of the music / vocals are in danger of letting the mayhem slip a little during songs, as I mentioned above. Nevertheless, this album is still a great addition to every fan of fast, aggressive black metal.