If you’re expecting Abbath Part II – a continuation of the first Abbath solo record, you’re going to be disappointed. Certainly Abbath’s first release was beyond incredible and, quite frankly, far better than Immortal’s new album 2018’s Northern Chaos Gods, which was certainly good, but clearly missing one particular element – and that being Mr. Olve Eikemo himself.
While Abbath’s self-titled record in 2016 was a clear and bold statement to both his former bandmates in Immortal and the greater black metal scene, there is no doubt Abbath seems to have less to prove with Outstrider, and therefore takes his music in some different directions.
What clearly jumps out to me from the first few listens is that Abbath seems much more apt to embrace lead guitars and soloing throughout most of these tracks. There are even some dual solos mixed in here and there. This relatively newer aspect of his compositions could be because of the confidence in his new lead guitarist or in the quest to create something that was more distinct from the first record.
Second, there is a lot more “space” in this record where not all instruments are blazing at 100mph. There’s some soul in here, and some time for reflection and appreciation of the compositions – apparent in songs like “Scythewinder” – which are still quite fast, loud and abrasive but also put together with a number of distinct layers that highlight different instruments and aspects of the song in more nuanced fashion than we might be accustomed to hearing.
Third, songs like “Outstrider” demonstrate a closer relationship with NWOBHM and traditional heavy metal song writing. “Outstrider” is more mid-tempo than we’re used to with Abbath and there is generally more mid-tempo work on this record than we might ordinarily expect. Of course, Abbath, like most of what he does, makes it work and makes it work quite well.
“Hecate” is a more traditional black metal crusher with appropriate amount of tremolo and pulsing bass and drums, yet with some pretty dynamic leads at the hands of Ole Andre Farstad. In this respect, “Hecate” demonstrates that Abbath is no longer content to simply really rely on riffs and traditional black metal sonics. There is an evolution here.
Of course, if speed is you what you’re really looking for in your black metal, you’ll want to check out “Pace Till Death.” In a 180 degree turn from slower, dirgy bands like Wolves in the Throne Room, Abbath evokes the hyperspeed riffing and lightning fast battery well known from Immortal’s Blizzard Beasts record with, thankfully, a much clearer mix.
Overall, Outstrider is going to give many fans what they expect, but at the same time, expose them to some directions and influences that Abbath has cultivated over the years. No matter what though, this record is another crusher and is bound to show the black metal scene that Abbath, as a solo artist, is doing more than well on his own.
Outstrider features cover art by Bergen’s own Kim Holm. Holm is well-known in Norway as the artist who draws scenes of live bands while they are actually performing. At most metal shows in Norway you can see Holm work in real time as he draws some downright incredible works of art in mere moments as he headbangs to the music.
Outstrider releases on July 5 and is available for order now.