For his new album A Hollow Path, Holland’s one-man band Abomnium decided it was time to bring about a new force of nature after 2014’s Solace For The Condemned which, in my opinion, felt like a repeat chapter of the band’s previous album Coffinships (2013). I definitely consider Coffinships a strong atmospheric black metal album playing upon soundscapes like those offered in Drudkh, Winterfylleth and Fen among others; but it didn’t feel quite as interesting to me as the band’s more open-minded debut, Rites Like Chains (2011). There was just something about that debut record that really stuck with me, especially the track “Bullets” which felt like a completely new cut in the Morbid Angel catalog. I almost thought that such a killer number was a cover from the American death metal legends, yet it was actually quite the opposite – and peppered with such a hefty dose of guitar firepower that I knew there was something special about Abomnium.
With A Hollow Path I feel that Sapient, the mastermind behind Abomnium, has gone back to discover his roots. This release sounds like a mix between the atmospheric black metal he was pursuing on the previous two discs, coupled with the furious bouts of death metal that were featured on the band’s debut. Yet this is what makes A Hollow Path so great, as we receive such a fine splash of melodies along with some more ritualistic black metal that recalls acts like Secrets of The Moon, Dark Fortress and in some ways even Rotting Christ. The atmospheric influences are still here, like that of Primordial, Mgla, Agalloch and numerous others, but there are also sections in which the trees have been chopped down, leaving us with something far different and quite intriguing as Sapient seems to be trying out a slew of new approaches in an act that I feel was sorely in need of them. Sapient is an astounding musician in all respects, handling the drumming, guitarwork and vocals completely by himself which is a feat in itself.
A Hollow Path begins with a different take on his previous material in the form of opener “Vigils” which brings together ritualism and blast beats in a near-epic that spans well over the ten-minute mark. It is here that the artist truly shows his ability to create captivating and meaningful atmospheres, which come packed with a great deal of fury and a hint of bitter chill.
Following that, we have “The Lies That Bind” which injects slight progression into what I would consider a less foggy and more down-to-earth blend of black metal ferocity. It feels like a fiery fist to the face, offering up more than a plentiful round of tremolo melodies. “Ignis Fatus” features a bit more chug, yet adds in some acoustic atmosphere and what seems like the tolling of a bell. If that wasn’t interesting enough, a mesemerizing round of guitarwork follows that reminds me of the old days, when Sapient seemed to enjoy shredding a bit.
As we move further into the album, “Blood Court” slows the tempo to a crawl, almost bringing in an unexpected (and completely welcome) Monotheist-era Celtic Frost or Tryptikon influence. The track slowly builds towards an onslaught, as we are hammered with even more of the shredding that I loved from this guy from the very moment that I first sat down and started soaking in his records.
Moving towards the end, we approach “The Furious Engines Of Heaven” which begins as a full-on tribute to the world of classic Norwegian black metal replete with all manner of tremolo picking and blasts, but there’s a slight section in the middle where the mood calms slightly and adds just a touch of class. Sapient didn’t have to do this, but I’m glad he did. So many other acts would have just left the track at blasts and tremolos, paving over the classic formula that we’ve already heard ten thousand times before.
“A Plague Upon Your House” feels more like the black/thrash of Sodom and Toxic Holocaust, as pounding drums front what feels like the seething anger of man reaching the last of his patience. The record carries what I feel makes black metal frightening as it invokes a hint of madness and seems to come from a pit of emotional despair and anxiety. You can’t get much more real and from the heart than that, regardless of how cold and black such a vessel might be.
“Walls Of Devotion” finally brings in the full-on death metal that I haven’t heard from this band in several years. Believe it or not, he’s still got it – and it still hits just as hard as “Bullets” (from Rites Like Chains) ever did. There are some slight bits of black here and there, but they’re nearly good enough to form an entire side-project out of. This is definitely one of my favorite cuts, minus the bizarre alien chanting in the middle. I could have done without that, even though the solo section more than makes up for it in the end.
The last cut that we have here is the title track, which is actually the shortest number on the disc surprisingly. The piece has an odd way about it, which seems to reach with one hand into the intelligent realms of progressive metal and the other firmly into the reaches of cold, melodic black metal darkness.
At the end of the listen, I felt that A Hollow Path was definitely Abomnium’s most mature and realized work. Not only has Sapient gone back to his very roots as an artist with a touch of the death metal and thrash in prior albums, he has also gone poking around for new and more interesting ways to convey a familiar style to his audience. If you’ve enjoyed Abomnium’s work before, I honestly can’t see why you wouldn’t absolutely love his new material as this is without a doubt the band’s most accomplished and professional release. I highly recommend it.