Abazagorath - The Satanic Verses [Eternal Death - 2014]Founded in 1995, Abazagorath bears the distinction of being one of the oldest American black metal bands still kicking. And despite their lengthy tenure, The Satanic Verses is just the third album put out by this New Jersey based outfit, possibly due to a fair amount of lineup changes (drummer Warhead is the only remaining founding member). Still, I’ll take quality over quantity any day, and quality is something these guys have in spades. This album is about the Satanic Verses, which were a series of verses in the Quran where Mohammed acknowledged the existence of a pagan god. Later, he allegedly recanted, saying that Satan forced him to speak, and the verses were removed.
Like their founding date would suggest, Abazagorath takes a lot of influence from the second wave but they bring enough of their own flair and signature American nastiness to the table that The Satanic Verses avoids retreading the same old forests and decrepit castles. There’s clear homage to Norway’s greats in the deep-cutting tremolo riffs and oppressive atmosphere built up on the album, but to say that the album is nothing more than pure second wave worship is a lie. The Satanic Verses uses both dissonance and melody to create an immensely varied and colorful listening experience, one that can go from uplifting and triumphant one moment to impossibly ominous and scornful the next.
The best thing about the album is the sheer amount of variety the band managed to pack into the album’s 50 minute runtime. While the twisted tremolos make up the bulk of the album there are occasional moments where the band lets up and takes a more melodic approach akin to a number of Swedish bands. “The Angel Gabriel” in particular reminds me of Naglfar’s debut during the main riff. I wish the band had played with this a bit more because they are among the album’s best moments. Another highlight is on “Return to Jahilia” where everything suddenly stops and breaks into this awesome, doomy passage with righteous clean vocals. Another aspect of the album I really admired was the variety in the vocal styles. The standard for this album is a typical screamed rasp, simple but effective, but Abbath like croaks and deathlike growls and even what sounds like Tuvan throat singing at one point accentuate the album.
My only real criticism of the album is that it takes a downward turn halfway through. The album is somewhat front loaded in terms of the best tracks and takes a dive after “Ayesha.” Still, what follows is solid if nothing else, and the album as a whole is definitely worth picking up. The Satanic Verses isn’t a game changer, but it’s a solid modern take on traditional black metal. Tyler L.