Artist: Abigail Williams
Title: In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns
Label: Candlelight Records
Genre: Melodic Black Metal / Metalcore
02 The World Beyond
04 A Thousand Suns
05 Into the Abyss
06 Smoke and Mirrors
07 A Semblance of Life
08 Empyrean: Into the Cold Wastes
10 The Departure
The album that almost didn't happen, In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns is more like the child birthed from a mother who has died on the operating table then a clean cut release. And for all the grittyness and putrid imagery that unveils, the album itself is remarkably crystal clear. This is a band that deserves its release after all the hard work and drama that they've been through. And if members are dedicated to move across the country to continue to be part of it, then there must indeed be something special there. While some may think of this band as a kind of savior for American extreme metal in general, its important to state that Abigail Williams holds nothing that other projects don't currently have and are also doing and have been doing for much longer. Bands like Ceremonial Castings, whom through their brutality have remained an underground icon in the Seattle area, never quite breaking out in the means they've deserved. Granted, Abigail Williams has a core appeal that can draw a crowd from the respective scene much like Teen Cthulhu did in their time active in metal. Such popularity contests shouldn't matter to labels, but when you're a big label like Candlelight, money's going to be a deciding factor. So it is, and has been, and will never cease to be. Point made by the simple fact: “15,000 copies sold of debut EP!” Name another American artist in the black metal scene in America that's pulling that one off right now...
Social arguments aside, the music on In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns is indeed musically well-written, though slightly lacking on the side of originality. There's really no lack of bands combining core influences with black metal these days, but doing it to the extent of Abigail Williams' personal fury is scarcely seen. Ken Sorceron is someone that is held with high honor in this scene because of his dedication to the vocal intensity in the black metal realm. Such loyalty is rarely seen in anything even moderately core-influenced and its gone a long way for most of the more extreme fans that the band has maintained since their inception in 2004. Unfortunately the clean attempts often drag down the pace of the album as well as their ability to bring the focus out of the complete sound straight to the vocals which is something that can destroy an album if the producer isn't too careful. The album is instrumentally perfect, and it should be for a 6 month recording process. The keys are absolutely out of this world, flying about in melodic ferocity, never tripping up which, again, is a rarity in metal. Few artists can claim to have a keyboardist who actually plays to the extent of being deemed 'classically oriented'. When teamed up with the sweeping guitars, especially on the level of interweaving sweep-flows, it makes for a very powerful experience for anyone who is a musician on an intermediate level or better.
Most people will undoubtedly take this release in two different directions, and sadly its largely a “kvlt” game. You'll either follow the mainstream view that every band with overly dramatic keyboard segments is a cradle of filth “faggoth” project or you'll be a bit more open minded and accept that every band should be judged on and individual basis. Abigail Williams operate on an entirely different level of professionalism that most bands don't even get the chance to attempt in this country. Its a strong sense of what their sound is SUPPOSED to be based on what they feel as musicians, in comparison to bands that write simply to write, to keep the band alive, or to appease the label their on. Abigail Williams, despite the growing popularity and the fine chance they have with Candlelight Records, is just Abigail Williams. Unchanged, unmolded, unchained. They make their music the way their hearts and hands express it and that's the simple story, and that's how it should be. Impressive effort. Talent-wise, probably one of the top 5 of 2008 as far as complexity and sheer skill. As a whole though, the lack of originality hurts them a bit. To really make their stone hold in time, they need to find something that takes them out of this loop of other projects, to stand alone on their own.