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Abbath: Unsilent Lord Of The Northern Abyss

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Last Updated on 06:09 PM by Giorgos Tsekas

The carrier of the most recognizable corpsepaint in black metal history, now in his 42nd year, is to release the first, namesake personal album of his, having departed from the band through which he was made well known (as well as making the band known), and thus, a retrospect of his 28-year-long music course is in order.

Back in 1988, 15-year-old Abbath Doom Occulta, aka Olve Eikemo, participated in 2 bands, Amputation and Old Funeral, both of which, on their first musical steps, played a primitive sort of death metal, with excitingly “special” cover art (see below) on their first tape demos aptly named “Achieve The Mutilation” and “The Fart That Should Not Be” correspondingly. Old Funeral may well had continued for 2 years after Abbath’s departure, having enlisted Varg Vikernes, but Amputation were defunct by 1990, in order to be reborn as Immortal. In all these bands Abbath showed a religious fervor in his devotion to bass and vocals, which continued up to 1998, when due to Demonaz’s tendinitis, he was forced to take up the guitar, resulting in his somewhat loss of majestic splendor inherent in bass playing during live concerts, as was reported back then in the music press, and as I later witnessed.

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The creation of Immortal, as well as the band’s first four years are what we must be eternally grateful to Abbath about, for a number of reasons. First and foremost, because of “Pure Holocaust”, the band’s magnum opus, a monumental work of art that is easily among the 20 best black metal albums ever. Secondly, for being accomplice to the most perfect example of portrait-as-cover black metal art, namely the covers of “Pure Holocaust” and “Battles In The North”. Thirdly, for “Call Of The Wintermoon’s” video, which though it has been disinherited by Abbath, it emits such an adolescent dark libido, that its enjoyment becomes irresistible, unless one is not a black metal devotee from his pre-adult days. Fourthly, for the video clips that were born off “Battles In The North,” which are somewhat the adult version of the aforementioned, and which are responsible for the revelation of Abbath’s obscure double denture as well as his crab-like walking. Fifth and last, for his extremely distinctive and recognizable way of singing, which, through its relative monotony fits perfectly to the monolithic icy soundscapes of Immortal, a vocal style that later on was also used by Inquisition, alas with less than stellar results.

From “Blizzard Beasts” onwards Immortal started taking a slow yet steady dive in inspiration, had some good moments in their I incarnation, but the past glory was irreversibly lost, something which is also apparent in this year’s Abbath album. However, even if Abbath never again releases something musically remarkable, we owe him eternal gratitude for the 1991-95 era.

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Beyond music, expressing now my personal mind shape of Abbath, I always considered him the good guy in the early (and most turbulent) era of Norwegian black metal, a trait much scarce back then. He and Demonaz always seem to have kept a discreet distance (as far as interviews are concerned) from the “mainstream” scene tendency, as far as arson and assassinations are concerned. I always thought (and still think) of Abbath as grounding (not in the sense of flirting with banality and the everyday, but in the sense of full devotion to music, on a level that did not permit him to tangle in the collective imagination-turning-to-dangerous-reality phenomenon of the scene of yore) counterweight to the destructive extremity of other Norwegians of the early 90s (though Immortal did experience a tragedy in Erik’s suicide). The good relations that Abbath seemed to have with most others, even those belonging to opposite camps, may well emit a PR smell (sic) but it can also be seen as a sort of mortar for the whole scene. Taking all that into account, I was rather surprised to learn about last year’s split in the Immortal camp.

Abbath as a mental entity oscillates between the terms “black metal hero” and “black metal mascot”, having offered much to both the “outsiders’” image about black metal (mostly appearance-wise) and the “insiders’” semiotics. In the end, what I hold above all is the image of this corpsepainted entity roaming, armoured, amid the frozen highlands of Blashyrk, with ax in hand. Or else, “A Perfect Vision Of The Rising Northland”.

Athotep Nyarl
Athotep Nyarl
I Dream of Lars Ulrich Being Thrown Through the Bus Window Instead of My Mystikal Master Kliff Burton

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