Released: 2015, Candlelight Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
Remember when Abigail Williams seemed like they were destined be America's answer to Emperor or Dimmu Borgir? It wasn't that long ago – 2008 in fact – that their debut album In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns brought the symphonic black metal grandiosity of Norway to the states, even going so far as to employ Emperor/Enslaved drummer Trym Torson to supply its cascade of percussion.
But that was a lot of lineup changes, one abortive hiatus, several new home bases and a dramatic sonic overhaul or two ago. Frontman/guitarist Ken Sorceron is the only member who remains from the Suns lineup, and the Abigail Williams of now sounds almost nothing like the Abigail Williams of then.
The most recent restructuring of the now Olympia, Wash.-based band's lineup brings a couple of ringers into the mix with ex-Lord Mantis/Nachtmystium drummer Charlie Fell and Wolvhammer/ex-Nachtmystium guitarist Jeff Wilson. And that has helped reinvigorate the band after the pair of aimless, incrementally cruder releases that followed Suns – 2010's In The Absence of Light and 2012's Becoming.
The Accuser maintains the decidedly raw, old school black metal feel of its most recent predecessor – even if it is a bit cleaner and less drab, and forgoes Becoming's string arrangements - but offers more nuance and depth in its presentation. It slingshots from the shriek and blast of “Path of Broken Glass” to spooky, almost ambient works like “The Cold Lines” and album closer “Nuumite” - or, in the case of the titanic “Godhead” or “Of The Outer Darkness,” accomplishing something similar within the context of the song itself, with a doomy trudge supplanting the ambient throb on “Darkness” – with reflexive ease.
“Will, Wish and Desire” is an altogether different animal, with its soaring post-metal sheen and ample guitar harmonies, not to mention its surprisingly forward and engaging melody, punctuated by Sorceron's shrill banshee howling. It makes for quite a dramatic turn, to be sure.
The more venomous “Forever Kingdom of Dirt” brings back that hail of guitar, but with fits of blast-beat fury, before slowing to a slog and drawing itself out for perhaps a bit too long - as the more concise and vicious “Lost Communion” that follows seems to prove.
Whether Sorceron will be able to hold this lineup remains to be seen, but if not, at least he was able to catch traditional black metal lightning in a bottle here. The Accuser is the most solid Abigail Williams album yet, building what strengths there were on the earlier albums, while excising most of the indulgences and lo-fi/high-concept annoyances. It's inspired, well played and has a more comfortable, naturally abrasive sound that really seems to agree with the band – or at least incarnation.