Abigorum / Striborg

Album Title: 
Spectral Shadows
Release Date: 
Tuesday, November 6, 2018
Review Type: 

SURPRISE!!!

…hope I didn’t scare you. But please continue reading – consider it a warning – for this split might scare you off for sure!

Well, I almost came spontaneously in my pants when I saw this: a split in between Abigorum and Striborg, two of my most beloved one-man armies that come from some weird untouchable dimension of aural frenzy and sonic madness. Abigorum and Striborg joining forces; this will be a mind-trespassing experience for sure. And believe me: it is, even though it might be not exactly what you might have in mind.

Spectral Shadows gets released via GrimmDistribution, one of the labels that are run by Aleksey Korolyov, the guy behind Abigorum (and also involved with Satanath and Taiga, for example), in collaboration with Colorado-based Death Portal Studio. The compact disc, released in an edition of 500 copies, comes with a six-page three-folded booklet, including Abigorum’s lyrics (in English) and fine Giger-alike cover artwork by Depravarts.

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The split starts with four pieces by Abigorum (there are some reviews for former Abigorum recordings available on Concreteweb; just enter the project’s name in the ‘search’ tab to read them, if interested), one of the outfits by the sympathetic Satanath Records / GrimmDistribution / Symbol Of Domination Productions owner Aleksey. The songs were written by Aleksey and all instruments were done by the guy himself, with guest assistance on the vocals by Abstrusus from Absolutus.

Abigorum’s part opens with The Darkness Of Aeon, which starts quite hyper-kinetic and frenzy: fast electronic beating and ultra-energetic pulses. Soon it turns into a strange form of extra-terrestrial Black Metal with blasting drum salvos (programmed?), many hypnotic string melodies, bizarre, mechanic voices and mind-blowing synths. The track varies a lot in structure and speed, and despite a primal performance, it is fully-layered and permanently teasing and captivating. It is hard to fully describe this material – the simplicity versus the complexity are so subtly mingled, you see – but in some way it reminds me of Italian Metraton and their unique EP Armies Of Darkness Unite! (which is a cult-classic to my opinion). Vortex Cathedral’s Shadow is at least as bizarre, with initially that Arab-Oriental approach, soon after joined by experimental sounds and samples. Suddenly, after about one minute, things change once more, evolving towards a mesmerizing dronescape. It is like some mixture of hypnotising Ambient Drone, morbid Doom and ritual Black Metal, yet from a mostly unique spectrum. I deeply adore this piece with its multi-layered levels, I really do… The third track, Orpheus Dreams, is the longest one (07:30), and it starts quite horrifying, I think. The astral elements from the introduction continue when the guitars join, and that combination results in something breath-taking, even paralysing and asphyxiating in atmosphere. The slow drum beats, little martial in execution, create that touch of ritualistic elegance in a hypnotic manner, and so do the many ‘hidden’ elements (like the whispered voices, the psychedelic synth additions, and so on). Eventually, it all ends with kinetic frenzy and psychotropic madness, both disturbing and elegant. Striborgum finally is like a tribute to Striborg indeed, I guess (or is that title a coincidence?), and despite a short length (this piece last for just three minutes and a half) there is so much to experience: shamanistic meditative tranquillity versus hyper-energetic electronica, dreamlike ambience versus obscure and funereal metalized bleakness; it’s all gathered into this strange yet unique composition.

Well, once again this Abigorum recording differs from the former ones, yet with a characteristic approach in concept and approach. There is a lot of variation, yet here too with a cohesive goal and a linear approach. It does sound chaotic for sure, yet that strengthens the elegance of this unique project for sure.

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Striborg are like a ‘legendary’ act from Tasmania, and Satanath Records recently re-released some older recordings (also reviewed by undersigned, so go for it!), meaning that this co-operative album is more than a coincidental collaboration. Anyway, Sin Nanna normally, or at least in the past, brings something that balances over towards raw and primal mysterious, Doom-laden Black Metal or rather dark-edged Ambient-alike soundscapes, with an evolution into a differentiated DSBM-alike direction. Here, however, you will experience something quite controversial. On Spectral Shadows, Striborg contributes with Spktr, and more specifically a short (no, not that short actually, for it clocks more than half an hour!) excerpt from the original ‘song’ (yeah, what’s in a word…). Initially, Spktr was created for a live installation with Ryoji Ikeda and his Spectra Light Installation (for a Mona performance; there will be another upcoming event in the future too, by the way). Four days on a row, Striborg performed this composition live, during a one-hour session, and with additional live instrumentation (e.g. bass clarinet, trumpet, electric violin and Guzheng [an old Chinese plucked string instrument], performed by the Australian Art Orchestra – this collaboration does not go for this release!). On this split, you’ll experience a shortened rehearsal version, which was, as demo-recording, released via digital sources (cf. the project’s Bandcamp-page) shortly before this official split-release. It follows the trend once set via stuff like Instrumental Trans-Communication or Blackwave, yet with a specific progression.

Sin Nanna did baptise this trend as Blackwave, being an evolved derivative of Darkwave. The last recordings indeed could be labelled this way, if you want to, and each source of ‘Metal’ has completely eliminated. Spktr however goes further than this. I would rather call it a mixture of Techno Music, Electronica (with more than just some coincidental references to the EBM [Electronic Body Music] scene) and Darkwave. The whole also incorporates elements from genres like Coldwave, IDM and Dark Electro, and even Dungeon Synth and Dark Ambient. Being ‘composed & recorded in a state of vertigo due to head trauma after a ladder incident’ (Hell yeah!) in one take (no overdubs), it is sort of intoxicating, especially during several excerpts. After almost eight minutes, things get nastier, when the speed turns up. Besides the energetic electronic beats, the background gets darkened by colourless yet dreamlike synth lines with that characteristic ‘wave’ attitude, joined by impetuous devices, vehement drum programming and spacelike sounds. At thirteen minutes, dissection also reveals elements from Experimental Noise Music and Spacebient / Psybient (believe me: it does exist!), when the harsh beating fades away (for a while), penetrating the listener’s brain with druggy sounds and a hallucinative sonic spectrum. At twenty-one minutes, the electronic beats reappear, less ‘Techno’ than in the beginning and much more Gabber / Speedcore-alike, even Dub-Step-injected for some evident reason.

It is not a question whether you like Electronic Music or not. I adored the entire discography of Striborg when performing Black Metal in general, yet I did not dislike the latest Blackwave albums either. This material is, once again, a next step, another trans-dimensional level within their career, but it surely has that flair that might attract (and repel at the same time).

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Spectral Shadows is not recommendable in case of narrow-mindedness or a limited view on Aural Art. If you like Pop Music, you better [self-censorship]. But with an open-minded attitude, this unique split will offer sonic pleasure and, at the same time, mental lability. And that’s what it is all about, is it not. No, seriously, I think that both solo-projects on this split surprise once more with their creative, experimental and explorative nature, and that’s way more important than blindly following trends or creating pathetically conventional Music.