Abbath is literally channeling Lemmy on this new record. There are very distinct manifestations of Motörhead and even Hawkwind all over it. And while it's a distinctively heavy record as one, of course, would expect from Mr. Occulta, it continues to signal Abbath's trajectory away from Immortal and into a sound that is distinctly his own. This record has groove and melody. The song writing is layered and disciplined. The vocals are articulated with more clarity than we've ever heard from Abbath before. All of this manifests in a record that still packs a massive punch with lots of speed but in a direction that's even further away from the days of Blizzard Beasts and Pure Holocaust.
The opener, "Acid Haze" is what you'd expect in an Abbath opener, with abrasive guitars developing riff after riff over a low end so massive that it would make even Lizzo blush. The somewhat distant mix in the vocal at times, along with the layered guitars provides a bombastic soniscape that takes you away from whatever it is that you're doing. With all the buzzing and the massive amount of distortion you are going to find yourself in this bizarre abyss of '70s fuzz that slams into Norwegian black metal. What I've noticed after listening to this song so many times is that the drums, specifically the cymbals, help lead you through this trippy and lively sonic bogginess.It might not be exactly what you expected but you can't but help be drawn into this opus of dense, but carefully crafted brutality.
"Acid Haze" is immediately followed by "Scarred Core." This track is something you've likely never heard from Abbath or Immortal. Yes, it has the usual heft we've come to expect, but it also, again has a wild, murky feel to it that, strangely enough, made the band Monster Magnet pop into my head as my ears consumed it for the first time. It's Norwegian Vikings meeting space rock, woven in a manner only our favorite Eastern Norwegian could pull off.
The first video released, "Dream Cull" has an addictive riff and a sound that is signature Abbath. And how can you not love this video of him doing exactly what he does best?
While many of the tracks are speed metal-meets-classic metal with a hefty dose of black metal holding it all together, there are certainly some cuts on this record that have a closeness to the later Immortal days, specifically, the pummeling "The Book of Breath," and the grim and frostbitten "Septentrion." Additionally, the fourth track on the record, "Myrmidon" is going to satisfy fans of the short-lived "supergroup" I, with it's '80s metal imprint.
"Dread Reaver," the closer, has a main riff that's also going to bring you back to the Immortal days but with a chorus that's closer to Abbath's heavy rock influences of his youth. "Dread Reaver," in this respect, is more like a "Genre Weaver." Ukri Suvilehto's drums work magic into the track as well with a beat that favors finesse over power. Perhaps the perfect song to end this nine track masterpiece. And yet, you'll still keep wanting more.
Oh, and I did mention there's a cover of Metallica's "Trapped Under Ice?" Like you really need one more reason to buy this record, right? Of course, let's not forget Abbath's famous display of being "trapped under ice" from Immortal's early days in this iconic video.
I've been fortunate enough to see Abbath perform in Old Funeral, Immortal and his own band, over the course of many, many years. There's a draw to him that is profound. Perhaps its his unabashed love and admiration for his fans, maybe it's his iconic look, but most of all the main reason Abbath has stood the test of time is that he continues to grow and evolve while remaining true to his permafrost covered roots. This record, in a vast sea of great releases already in 2022, is already at the top of my "best of list."
Here's the thing with Abbath – you essentially know what to expect, but then you listen to the record and you're smacked with surprise and delight. It's the variations on the theme that he does so well. Dread Reaver only further solidifies the fact that we're experiencing the work of the one the greatest songwriters in extreme metal history. Abbath was always so much more than an internet meme and a caricature, and this record only gives further credence as to how gifted of a songwriter and performer he really is. Nothing seems to stop him and we're so grateful for that.