Sunday, February 1, 2015

Abigor - Leytmotif Luzifer (The VII Temptations of Man)

Abigor’s “Leytmotif Luzifer” is a sprawling and ornate cathedral of riffs, dedicated to worshiping the glory of Lucifer. Energetic and passionate by any standard, this album dispels all notions that these characteristic are only in young bands, especially considering the fact that Abigor’s pedigree stretches over twenty years. The guitars, which have been refined and mastered through those years of experience, are the powerful center point of the album. Solos and quick melodic flourishes are peppered into the songs with such elegance that it’s obvious that guitarists P.K. and T.T. play their instruments as naturally as other musicians breath. As a result, the composition is wonderfully free flowing and natural. Every riff and every solo is filled with momentum rather than serving to aggrandize the musician’s egos. Throughout “Leytmotif Luzifer,” that momentum conveys a mood of genuine and regal adoration. Thankfully the casual expertise of the guitars also introduce a kind of playfulness to the album that keeps it from becoming comically serious.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Abigor’s main riffing style uses expanses of tremolo picked notes building off of shifting chord progressions to create a layered melody. In the most general terms possible, think of Emperor. On “Leytmotif Luzifer,” though this often includes bursts of high note runs, mini-solos that guide the songs from one riff to the next much like a drum fill. Overall, this makes for a more vicious album than Abigor’s “Natchymnen.” While the band’s characteristic guitar counterpoint is still at play, the mix is now so well rounded that the band feels comfortable occasionally leaving the rhythm entirely in the hands of the bass. Structurally, the songs are strongly linear. Although there is less repetition, each track maintains a coherent narrative - balancing the sleazy, casual, and aristocratic hedonism with the fanatic and reverent adoration of Lucifer. This balance is vital because at one extreme the album would be a stuffy sermon (about a minor character from an ancient fantasy novel) and at the other a bacchanalia. With the album’s subtitle “The VII Temptations of Man” and song titles like “Excessus” and “Indulgence” it almost invites a Marquis de Sade comparison.

Putting the dazzling guitars aside for a moment, every other instrument is stunning. It’s also worth noting how a fair share of the album’s palatial grandeur comes from the vivid and dynamic vocals. Since this happens most spectacularly with the clean vocals in the fantastic climax at the end of “Excessus,” it’s possible to gloss over entire album’s vocal variety. Take “Indulgence” for example starting with the clean line “So let me rise” and how the abrasive background howls reinforce the line before savagely entering the foreground. That style itself is a prelude to double tracked gurgles that are then followed by the standard black metal fare. Incredibly, all of that variation is still secondary to the guitar’s narrative. In the same vein, the drumming and bass are top notch and vary in intensity to match album’s flow but the real focal point is in the guitars. P.K. and T.T. apparently shared bass duty, and with T.T. also handling the drums, you end up with the liberated direction and purpose of a solo project while still having the complete sound of a full band.

Returning to the guitar’s casual precision, you can hear this in the deliberately muted lead notes, feedback, free time notes, and numerous pick scrapes. If it weren’t for the rigid precision elsewhere, these things would appear sloppy, but instead it’s like watching a 250kg tiger play with its kill before eating it. Relaxed in the way only a seasoned predator can accomplish. Again, this all well balanced against the noble atmosphere that it helps to complement. Abigor’s movement along this axis is a major source for the album’s impetus, but not the most important. When building off of the chord progressions, the lead melody has a habit of feeling like it was interpolated between the existing notes while simultaneously also paradoxically deciding the following notes. The amount of energy behind this is incredible, placing the album at the same intensity level as you might ask for from bands like 1349 or Marduk but without falling into the constant blasting trap or “norsecore” label.

“Leytmotif Luzifer” is instantly enjoyable and still extremely replayable. At around 42 minutes, the album wastes no time, and even with the linear song structures has no shortage of intriguing ideas. A good benchmark for how well crafted the album’s architecture are its last handful of minutes. “Excessus’” ending is a microcosm for the entire album and perfect (yes perfect) way to end an album. At about halfway through the 11 minute song you start to get a real sense of approaching finality. Keep in mind that even in the context of a few start-stop moments, that the multi-layered explosion of sound at around 5:30 ecstatically begins wrapping things up. Now, while other bands would cheaply milk that moment, Abigor moves on immediately while still ringing out lead notes to carefully remind you of what they just did. At about 8 minutes in the clean vocals again rise in prominence without resolving the melody; that is until the soaring vocals a half minute later “All earth does worship thee!” the album’s climax. Cue the majestic slow down, fake ending, and subtle reprisal. Wow. Beautifully heavy and conclusive without any hint of melodrama.

This is what architecture sounds like, and “Leytmotif Luzifer” is a palace.

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