Reviewed: [March 2021]
Released [2021 Inverse Records]
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The second album from Finland’s Abstrakt offers up a symphonic black metal grandiosity to match that of Norwegian contemporaries Dimmu Borgir – even without the orchestras and choirs Dimmu now have their wherewithal to employ. But thanks to technology, and the savvy to work with it, synths and programming can come close to making up the difference, and Abstrakt give it a go and then some here.
And such was the case for Dimmu back in the Enthrone Darkness Triumphant/Spiritual Black Dimensions-era, which Uncreation certainly echoes – sometimes uncomfortably so – with its sonic palette. It delivers sophisticated arrangements via a wall of sound that is big on pomp, yet clings to an undercurrent of brutality and malice thanks to a steady barrage of blast beats, a maelstrom of riffs and frontman Nightderanger’s feral rasp.
Every track here is a something of a mini epic – even the instrumental intro “Ex Vanitas” and the ethereal “The Ascendant” that serves as as a bridge between the front and back halves of the album and is sandwiched between “Prophet Of Fire” and “Inferno,” providing a brief respite before hell is unleashed. The orchestrations aren’t used some much to provide texture or add color, but rather to build what is already a big sound into something truly massive, culminating in the monumental title track that closes things out in an 8-minute sonic avalanche.
Yet bigger isn’t necessarily always better and a more organic, less ostentatious approach – with the orchestrations used more sparingly – might have given things more staying power on Uncreation. Much of the material strains under the weight of the ever-present bombast and the songs struggle to catch hold – and in case you are wondering, the “Screaming For Vengeance” here is an Abstrakt original and not a blackened symphonic variation of the title track from Judas Priest’s landmark 1982 album.
There are certainly some interesting riffs to be found, and at their core the compositions are compelling and challenging enough without all the extra, well, everything – something that can be said about Dimmu’s more recent work with the real-life symphonies and choirs adding layers of veneer at the expense of the black metal tumult beneath. Ambition and restraint can be equal partners, but all of the sound and fury on Uncreation ends up signifying not as much as perhaps it could have had the band pulled back the reins a bit.