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In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns

Candlelight (2008)
Rating: 9/10

After the explosive debut EP, entitled Legend (2006), Arizona’s Abigail Williams disbanded, citing personal differences. To the chagrin of many, North America’s best hope for symphonic black metal legitimacy worldwide was gone before it ever had a chance to succeed.

Thankfully the band were able to settle their petty squabbles and now they return with In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns, a massive sounding release that belies both the age and home country of these future black metal legends.

In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns was produced by the legendary James Murphy (ex-Death / ex-Testament / ex-Obituary) and his presence is felt immediately without overshadowing this young band’s unique sonic premise. From the opening symphonies of ‘I’ through the brutal inaugural track ‘The World Beyond’, Murphy’s penchant for capturing brutality and the bands apparent love of sonic dissonance expertly collide, resulting in a blend of philosophies old and new. ‘A Thousand Suns’ is a great example of this as it blends clean harmonic vocals with dark, demonic ones in a similar way to bands like Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth.

‘Smoke And Mirrors’ and ‘Floods’ confirm the band’s love for the latter breed of black metal superstars, with ‘Floods’ being particularly impressive sonically. The keyboard work here goes far beyond the expected haunting atmosphere, opening the gates into the world of classical music via a wonderful piano piece that steals the show more than once during its five minute and 48 second run time.

While bands like Dissection, Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth are obvious influences, it’s the album’s ending moment, ‘The Departure’, that establishes the idea that there is much more to Abigail Williams than black metal bombast. While the song has its share of crushing aggressive moments, it is also filled with melodic, tradition metal guitar parts. It could even be argued that it is those same guitars that truly drive the song. Additionally, the song features atmospheric bridges and lead guitar work that transcends anything the black metal genre has offered thus far. ‘The Departure’ is a glimpse into what black metal could become in the right hands.

While it’s surprising that a band from North America, let alone the state of Arizona, could create such a beautiful masterwork, this reviewer offers no pause in giving credit where credit is due. In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns is original, intriguing, well-produced, and expertly crafted. Where it fits into the black metal lexicon historically can only be told by the passing of time, but for now it is an essential purchase for longtime lovers of the genre or young fans attempting to connect with it.

Mark Fisher

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