In any form of music, long songs are a risky and difficult endeavour, as they require an abundance of ideas or considerable sonic charisma, but always a keen understanding of song structure and composition, to justify their run times. Take OPETH and PRIMORDIAL for example, two undeniably unique bands with a habit of writing songs at least eight minutes in length. OPETH give their “suites” substance by weaving together a smorgasbord of genres in a way that sounds organic and cohesive, while PRIMORDIAL unfurl their slow-building pagan thunder with a bewitching mastery of their sound and an understanding of both atmosphere and the building and releasing of tension that few bands possess. And then there are French black/death metallers ABDUCTION,
ABDUCTION, who claim to be influenced by these two bands (in fact they sound set on becoming the PRIMORDIAL of France) on their debut Une Ombre Régit les Ombres, but lack OPETH’s diversity of sound or the PRIMORDIAL’s musicianship and compositional skill. Consequentially, the two lengthy tracks that misguidedly open this album at 12 and 13 minutes each only serve to give the band’s weaknesses ample time to come to the forefront and leave the goodwill created by their strengths (which are certainly there and only make these two tracks more frustrating because of it) and their admittedly cool aesthetic (the band style themselves as plague doctors) severely tested.
After an underwhelming opening instrumental, the album kicks off properly with Naphtalia, a song that would not have suffered at all from losing about three minutes and which resembles the soundtrack to a witch being tried and burnt. A lot of the flaws that plague this album are on display here. ABDUCTION try to mix heavy sections with softer more atmospheric ones, but switch between them too frequently and don’t blend them together particularly well, making the compositions often feel erratic, uneven and stitched together rather than organic and flowing. Furthermore, the softer parts have a bad habit of sounding like the same crawling riff played over and over again, whilst the heavier parts very often just sound like generic black metal. They also have a profoundly irritating habit of pausing between the soft and heavy moments as if their songs are finishing. They also commit the cardinal sin of repetitiveness, to the point that Sainte Chimère takes about three minutes to stop sounding like a continuation of its predecessor. Even once it introduces progressive influences and bluesy note bending, the track still meanders for a further four minutes before suddenly becoming good, and it almost doesn’t have the right to.
And it’s a shame because the second half of Sainte Chimère is really good. Despite ABDUCTION’s flaws, there are glimpses of a really good band in here. The vocals throughout the album are excellent, a really nice mix of authoritative rasps and cleans that move between sinister chants, melancholy laments and passionate wails. The general tone of the instruments is also a nice touch, as they sound genuinely medieval and the reverb makes them sound like they are echoing off the walls of a church, giving the album a cold, oppressive atmosphere at times.
It’s once ABDUCTION trim the fat from their run times to a more digestible nine minutes that their collective strengths really start to shine. From its killer opening to its conclusion, the epic Les Frissons de Cimes is a fantastic track that showcases what the band are capable of when everything clicks into place. It’s more melodic, has a better flow, the vocals are captivating, the soft passages are gripping and the heavy moments genuinely thunder, benefiting largely from Velley’s booming, echoing drumwork, but it only exacerbates the frustration ABDUCTION have already provoked because of how good it is. Album closer L’Enlèvement D’Automne is not quite as strong, but the atmospheric parts, led by ethereal acoustic guitar, are wonderfully beautiful.
Sadly the abundant charm of the second half is not enough to redeem ABDUCTION from forcing the listener to wade through the mire of their two repetitive, ill-judged opuses. Definitely check out the last two tracks to see everything they do well, but otherwise, just listen to PRIMORDIAL.
Une Ombre Régit Les Ombres is out now via Finisterian Dead End.
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