“Path of Broken Glass” is one of the best damn songs in extreme music this decade, let alone the gluttonous genre of black metal. From the very start, the listener is treated to a harsh, ceaseless riff with some of the most tortured, wretched, chokehold shrieks this side of Weakling. Abigail Williams’ previous album Becoming was weighted down with long, meandering tracks that occasionally drifted too much to have the desired effect; this five-and-a-half minute opener to their 2015 release The Accuser is an incredible example of concise, structured songwriting within US black metal. It’s an irresistible, slaying track that even includes a false-stop that is genuinely surprising and unclumsy.
Unfortunately, the pace of The Accuser simply cannot match up with its lead’s ferocity. A pratfall of US black metal is its over-reliance on a pummeling atmosphere in place of songwriting. Yes, a significant portion of black metal’s appeal is its visceral, life-destroying1 milieu, but frequently the actual songwriting aspect is lost in pursuit of brutality. US black metal tends to favor cloudy production for the sake of atmosphere at the expense of proper songwriting,2 creating a haze of atmospheres, vocals, and brutality that does not actually create a stand-out listening experience. That’s what happens on The Accuser.
Immediately following the incredible outro to “Path of Broken Glass”, the listener is treated to the brief, heavily obfuscated “The Cold Line” that entirely obscure sKen Burgeron’s already proven-to-be amazing vocals. The guitars are muddy, and the sheen of white noise does not do well and only serves as a tease. Follow-up “Of the Outer Darkness” isn’t much better, with a rather substandard US black metal track that offers plenty of ideas but goes little with them – the one exception being a mid-track scream by Burgeron that seamlessly blends with guitar fuzz. “Will, Wish, and Desire” has some pretty good moments, chiefly due to its major-key melody and Nachtmystium-esque psychedelic lead guitar. “Godhead” and “Forever Kingdom of Dirt” are brutal, but like “The Cold Line” they have too much obfuscation to lend any credence to their many ideas. “Lost Communion” almost makes up for lost time with a descending guitar line, and “Nuumite” is a well-inspired mid-tempo closer; but otherwise there’s simply nothing on The Accuser that can follow-up that incredible, shattering lead track.
1. Path of Broken Glass – (5:30) – ★★★★★
2. The Cold Lines – (3:48) – ★★☆☆☆
3. Of the Outer Darkness – (7:16) – ★★☆☆☆
4. Will, Wish, and Desire – (5:58) – ★★★★☆
5. Godhead – (7:08) – ★★☆☆☆
6. Forever Kingdom of Dirt – (6:42) – ★★☆☆☆
7. Lost Communion – (4:04) – ★★★☆☆
8. Nuumite – (5:08) – ★★★☆☆
1Unless you’re Liturgy.
2I know it’s been like six months since I reviewed it, but Downfall of Gaia’s Aeon Unveils the Thrones of Decay still pisses me off for this reason.