When I was given the new Abigail Williams record for review, I was ecstatic. Here’s a band that originally did not interest me at all with their first couple releases, but managed to completely blow my mind with 2011’s In The Absence Of Light. I downloaded the six tracks that comprise Becoming from Thrash’s work area, quickly burned them to disc, and raced to my car to get some one on one time with what I envisioned to be a pulse-pounding black metal storm. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
Now, after ending a paragraph like that, you have to think that this review is going south post haste. In all honesty, Becoming is a great album – it’s just something completely different. This is coming from a band that, just one year ago, gave us something completely different and exponentially more awesome than anything else in their catalog. At its base level, it’s still black metal, but they’ve taken it further into the down tempo land that bands like Wolves In The Throne Room and Agalloch tread. To say I was disappointed is seriously understating the upset of that moment, but after allowing more time for me to digest the record, I eventually fell in love with it.
This is, by far, Abigail Williams’ most mature album yet. It starts out with “Ascension Sickness”, a fair opener, considering it’s not too excessive of a departure from the band’s recent work, but at the same time, it’s not the most impressive or exciting song they’ve ever done. This introduction is also the first indicator of what’s to come, however. The song’s runtime is 11:11, but the material that you would anticipate from this band ends around the median. The remainder of the song is depressive, atmospheric, and empyrean, and this style is the accent to what comprises the majority of Becoming.
The band really begins to shine in their new groove with the start of the second track, “Radiance”. This is a downtrodden song featuring guitar work that is simultaneously saddening and beautiful. It eventually picks up the pace and has a somewhat climactic ending. “Elestial” is very much along these lines as well – it starts at a snail’s pace, builds to a crescendo, and then falls back into tortured melodies. We then come to what has grown to be my favorite track on Becoming – “Infinite Fields Of Mind”. This song successfully mixes the new direction with the traditional sound of works past, and the closing riffs are nothing short of masterful. “Three Days Of Darkness” is merely an introductory track, and “Beyond The Veil” is a showcase of everything that is great about the record, jammed into a 17 minute epic finale.
The drums are mostly mid to low tempo, successfully complimenting the new brand, but they have their moments when they escalate to torrential blast beats – always when the situation calls for it. The vocals are the one element that are no surprise, as they are the same monotone, higher end shrieks that Abigail Williams has become known for. They are pretty much pure black metal, and they fit into the mix quite nicely, while never serving to disappoint. The mix itself is very rough, and it sounds as if this band might have been channeling some Darkthrone when in the studio. It’s not quite the worst recording ever, but it’s almost a little too kvlt for its own good. At the same time, anyone who listens to the genre will have no problem slipping right in to it. This is the kind of album that would brag about being recorded inside a steel trash can.
Abigail Williams are proving to be to metal what Gary Oldman is to cinema. They’ve reinvented themselves so many times that they are barely recognizable anymore. While this sort of thing makes Gary Oldman one of the most talented actors on screen, it makes listening to Abigail Williams’ discography a schizophrenic endeavor. With that said, this is a grade A product, and considering this band started as an arguably weak symphonic deathcore act, it’s safe to say that they have outdone themselves by leaps and bounds. While I can’t see the average metal head falling in love with this at first listen, I feel that the music is graceful enough at times to ensnare listeners outside the cusp of the genre, making Becoming an album that’s worth checking out.