Sound: One little concealed fact is this: I don't like deathcore. Ever since having to sit through my first near death experience (watching the atrocious 'Pray for Plagues' video) I thought 'Never again, I'm not going to wilfully listen to this untalented mud puddle called a music genre'. But, it insisted on rearing its ugly head a number of times and now I find myself with this album by rising Candlelight Records saviours Abigail Williams.
2008's release 'In the shadow of a Thousand Suns' was somehow considered one of the best albums to come out of the American underground. I'm sorry but... no. A new fusion genre is usually a good spot of news but symphonic black metal and deathcore is frankly, an abomination of stupid. This new effort 'In the Absence of Light' is at the very least, an improvement. Let's start by saying this: There is no deathcore in this album. This is an attempt at being raw-as-hell, no-punches-pulled black metal. You might have the odd break here and there, but it's the eerie Bloodbath style fist-puncher, not this two-stepping, twinkle-toeing 'dancing' breakdown style that they were doing in the first place. That in itself is an improvement.
However, in their attempt to be 'kvlt' they've unfortunately sacrificed their unique selling point (being fused with deathcore), thus becoming rather tame. Even though I despise deathcore, at least it TRIES to be raw and edgy. Take that away, and you're left with one of those 'New wave of black metal' bands from the 90's that were considered shit and have remained unknown. A few Immortal and Mayhem riffs, Burzum vocals and some thick keyboards seem to be enough for these guys to call their material 'album worthy' but they've overlooked everything else such as actual song structure, consistent riffs and (something which should be a blasphemy) blast beats (of which there are too few) that at least makes black metal compulsive listening. While competent musicians, it's as if they tried to emulate their heroes so much that they ended up sounding just like them, therefore sounding like most other black metal bands. This all adds up to an incredibly tame, incredibly average black metal album. // 5
Lyrics: Vocally, it's just a bog standard black metal scream. Slightly drowned out by the instruments and lacking any decipherability, good to know there's none of that high pitched girl screams and terrible cookie growls that come from deathcore. Still, nothing that will grip you by your balls, for it is a scream heard in practically any black metal band. Lyrics are suitably black metal (depression, misanthropy, murder, love and peace for Satan); although at a glance I could've sworn they were from an Asking Alexandria lyric sheet. Maybe the deathcore lingers on, maybe not. From the song 'In Death Comes the Great Silence':
Another day goes by and
I am running out of excuses
Running out of words to describe
And as my heart becomes dust
A final exit becomes clear
I stand beyond the sun with the comfort of emptiness inside
Unfortunately, having average vocals and typical lyrics just adds to the plain and mundane. // 5
Overall Impression: Why bother comparing it, I'd have to name every black metal band in the last 15 years and Abigail Williams will still rip them off enough to sound the same.
But although my review be damning, it was better than I expected. Behind genre listing and labelling, nothing is usually as it seems. In this case, bands really can change and dropping this whole trendy scenario, Abigail Williams at least has made a firm change and hasn't decided to add harmonicas and country folk guitar or something to seem different, even if what they do now is incredibly safe.
If you love your black metal, then by all means take a listen and be satisfied if not bored to tears, but if you're an old fan of the whole breakdown thing, you'll be sorely disappointed and the same goes for anyone who bought into the hype that Candlelight generated of 'an epic new band'.
Songs to look out for: Very few decent tracks here, 'Hope of the great betrayal', 'Infernal Divide' and 'What Hells Await Me'. // 5