Abigail Williams – The Accuser


Bands changing direction is nothing new in Metal. The switch Pantera made from hairspray and spandex to shaven-headed Punch-You-In-The-Face Metal is well documented; in just two albums, Ministry made the jump from ’80s New Romantic electro-pop to Industrial noise, and after only one album, Darkthrone laid their Death Metal riffs to rest and slapped on the angry badger make-up instead.

While certain acts get to make their transitions a relatively damage-free experience, others aren’t quite so lucky, having to suffer accusations of bandwagon jumping and selling out, usually for years longer than necessary. Celtic Frost were met with ridicule when they stopped writing dark fantasy lyrics about emperors returning and wicked things procreating and turned to singing about cherry orchards and sleazy dancing instead (okay, they might actually have deserved it – bad example). Opinion on Opeth has been split due to their ongoing transition into a 1970s Prog band, Machine Head still bear the scars of their Nu-Metal years, and everyone and their dog has an opinion on how Metallica went from ‘Metal Militia’ to ‘Mama Said’.

Originally hailing from the grim and frostbitten plains of Phoenix, Arizona, Abigail Williams still find themselves trying to shed the stigma attached to the Metalcore leanings of debut Legend (Candlelight), an EP recorded nearly ten years ago. After its release, founding member Ken “Sorceron” Bergeron edged the band towards a more atmospheric style of Black Metal rather than continuing down the previous route. This, plus several major line-up changes didn’t go down too well in some quarters, and a reputation for bandwagon jumping has followed them around since.

Any possible question of whether this kind of silliness bothers the band (now based in Olympia, Washington), or if it even registers on their radar whatsoever is answered on new album The Accuser (Candlelight) with savage immediacy as opener ‘Path of Broken Glass’ begins with a dissonant melee of icy blastbeats, feedback and frantic guitars.

Nope. As entirely expected, they couldn’t care less.

Possibly one of their best songs to date, ‘The Cold Lines’ follows next, crawling into the shadowy corners of the room and lurking there with an almost 1970s feel at its black heart. ‘Of The Outer Darkness’ begins with more feedback, quickly launching into a wall of blastbeats, rasping vocals and slashing guitars, slowing down for a while before building up to a frenetic conclusion. The melancholic ‘Will, Wish and Desire’ follows with some nice lead work, while ‘Godhead’ begins powerfully but runs out of steam a little towards the end. ‘Forever Kingdom of Dirt’ does the opposite by starting fairly ordinarily but ending strongly, and ‘Lost Communion’ may be fairly straightforward but it’s also one of the album’s strongest moments with its savage opening and monstrously catchy middle section. Things take a slightly experimental turn with the darkly gothic closer ‘Nuummite” which sounds like somebody kept The Sisters of Mercy in a steel cage for a week, feeding them nothing but raw meat and bitterness.

Although The Accuser isn’t perfect – the slower sections hold the interest more than the occasionally one dimensional faster material, and there are a few moments when you have to remind yourself you’re not actually listening to Emperor – it does hang together neatly, and with more than enough twists and turns to keep you interested. Forget the naysayers. Abigail Williams could very well have delivered the best album of their career to date.