Conquering the frozen plains of inner turmoil.
Shortly after completing his conceptional trilogy of albums (Melancholia-And Here I Stand), Karhmul was left in somewhat of an identity crisis with where to go with his project, however this extended time between releases shows an invigorated and rejuvenated approach. As a result, providing us with his next masterwork.
Our Fortress is a direct sequel to the third ABL album The Angel Experiment and lyrically continues the story told in that release, all with the benefit of time and hindsight on Karhmul’s behalf. The playing on this album is the tightest, most melodic and atmospheric that it has ever been. Angel Experiment originally released back in February 2016 and Fortress goes to show the massive jump in not only scope and ambition but also in skill, variety and realisation.
Whilst this album is not as openly ambitious as the previous release, largely lacking the mixture of ambient pieces laden into the mix and choosing more so to focus solely on aggressive riffing, I believe that this change is all for the better. What we get on Fortress as a result are long, moody and darkly melodic tremolo riffs that Karhmul’s vicious voice violently cuts through.
Without a doubt this is not only the best that Karhmul has sounded when performing his recognisable pained shrieks and growls, but also in terms of player confidence when helming his guitar. The riffs are all given freedom to breathe and trance the listener whilst drenching and drowning them in swelling frozen atmosphere and this effect is achieved better here than ever heard before with Abandoned by Light.
The main addition to this album which separates it from the others in the extensive back catalogue would be Karhmul’s implementation of doom metal riffs. This is an album which is not afraid to slow down at times and have moments where the drums slowly but heavily pound away as long, extended chords resonate and creep into dissonance. Karhmul shows off a heavier death growl to match. These moments stand out as some of the most memorable on the release in my opinion and particular highlights demonstrating this heavier approach can be found in songs such as Reborn in Dying Flames, as well as a rendition of the funeral march as heard in the track, He Who Would Swallow God.
In taking time to figure out where to go with the project and employing a streamlined and refined approach, Karhmul has delivered his strongest album to date. The twisted and psychological horror of the story is accurately and expertly equally expressed throughout the phenomenal guitar riffs, haunting vocals and punishing drums which all culminates together to create and deliver perhaps the most vicious ABL experience as heard so far.
With sharp and fierce production, beautifully dark and melodic guitar riffs, an engaging story and a strong conviction, Abandoned by Light proves once again that it can stand shoulder to shoulder with some of Scandinavia’s greats and ultimately shows that even after seven albums, that the project will continue to reach new heights as Karhmul’s potential grows evermore. This is something truly special.