Word Of Sin

Season Of Mist
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Rat King
02. A Thousand Dead Witches
03. Crystallion
04. Starless
05. Desert Temple
06. Widow's Will
07. Queen of Pain
08. Old Ones Prequel
09. Old Ones

Operating under the somewhat questionable banner of 'progressive doom metal', THE ABBEY are vastly more intriguing than that description would suggest. The shadowy Finnish crew, led by frontman / guitarist Jesse Heikkinen, are also going to be compared to GHOST a lot. These two things may be related.

As far as the GHOST comparison goes, it's all in the vocals. As they demonstrate immediately on opener "Rat King", THE ABBEY are a far heavier, slower and more densely atmospheric band than the Swedes, but it is equally true that Heikkinen's vocals and harmony choices are redolent of Papa / Count Whatever-It-Is-This-Week's arena-conquering heroes. In truth, that is where the resemblance begins and ends, largely because THE ABBEY don't have their tongues planted permanently in their cheeks. "Word Of Sin" is a serious debut with a serious amount of dark magic swirling around its iciest corners.

Again, much like GHOST before they fully revealed their showbiz ambitions, the Finns' sound has a timeless, eerie quality that stops short of being traditional doom metal, but that harnesses the genre's unbeatable heaviness as a means to conjure new visions from the darkness. "Rat King" is stately and hypnotic, but there are colorful depths to the arrangement — a frisson of church organ, ghostly angel choirs — that sparkle through with great clarity.

As ever, the most important thing to note is that THE ABBEY have written some great songs. A perfectly paced and weighted debut album, "Word Of Sin" is more ghost train than rollercoaster, but it's dynamic highs and lows are all executed with style. "A Thousand Dead Witches" is a thunderous, fast-paced, occult metal anthem, with a real sense of theatre and a fabulously indulgent final crescendo. "Crystallion" blends melodic doom melancholy with bewitching flurries of strings and sweeping, cinematic ambience. "Starless" is a wayward and grim dream-doom ballad that confirms Heikkinen's progressive credentials over eight, lavishly orchestrated minutes. Both "Desert Temple" and "Widow's Will" take a more focused approach: the former begins with a straight-ahead thump, before blossoming into mad, prog metal splendor; while the latter embeds insistent, VOIVOD-like hooks into a slow-motion, psychedelic funeral march. Spiky and horrified, "Queen Of Pain" is an occult rock gem, with another inspired mid-song detour into some wild, gothic fever dream with an extra chorus of ecstatic angels thrown in for good measure.

Finally, the two-part "Old Ones" brings the curtain crashing down with maximum dramatic impact. It builds from "Old Ones Prequel" and its Ennio Morricone-meets-MOONSPELL folk hymn fervor, to the full bloom, 12-minute excesses of "Old Ones" itself, wherein the fine line between unsettling atmospheres and cheap schlock is perfectly observed, and every theatrical rumble and archetypal door creak plays a telling role in elevating the dark churn of Heikkinen's riffs. It's ambitious, audacious and overwrought, and the only sensible response is to stand back and admire the view.

THE ABBEY have kicked open some previously unbothered crypt doors here. Entry is highly recommended. They might even be for real.

Author: Dom Lawson
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