Review Summary: Walking around in circles
Abbath is one of those characters who needs no introduction. Former frontman of almighty Immortal, Olve Eikemo is undoubtedly one of the greatest black metal icons. His Gene Simmons / King Diamond-esque corpse paint has become a symbol of the genre, inspiring generations of demonic followers and even fictional bands like Belzebubs. But Abbath's contribution goes far beyond aesthetics, albums like Pure Holocaust
, At the Heart of Winter
or Sons of Northern Darkness
are among the best releases the genre has to offer.
Due to his overly extroverted personality, Abbath gradually became a caricature of himself. If, on the one hand, made him a well-known and picturesque character, on the other hand, left him more susceptible to all kinds of humorous memes. And when people stop being taken seriously, they lose credibility. By this, I don't mean he missed the boat, but it made things a little more difficult for him. When he left Immortal in 2015, to embrace a solo career, there was a fringe of the metal community that looked at this new cycle with distrust and some discomfort. In this sense, it was no wonder the self-titled debut album had such a mixed reception. Its more mainstream approach was an insult to some, and a pleasant surprise to others, like me, who found it interesting and somehow fresh.
It's in this divisive context that Outstrider
comes to life.
"Calm in Ire of Hurricane", the album's opener, with its acoustic intro and subsequent "All Shall Fall-esque" vibe, tells us Outstrider
seeks for a stronger link to the past than its predecessor. Although the song is nothing out of the ordinary, it has the merit of being a solid introduction to what's to come. The next two songs, "Bridge of Spasms" and "The Artifex", respectively, are a blackened thrash assault, in which I would highlight the verses' straightforward ferocity, that reinforce the album's rawest approach. Outstrider
now arrives at full speed to "Harvest Pyre", the album's first single and a personal favorite. This song captures Immortal's epic post-At the Heart of Winter feeling, featuring an interesting solo that explores a more traditional heavy metal formula. "Harvest Pyre" is certainly nothing we haven't heard before, but it's still a solid jam, and a good choice for first single. The second half doesn't bring great surprises, the formula remains unchanged. Songs such as "Land of Khem", "Scythewinder" or "Hecate" bring Abbath closer to Immortal (of the new millennium), but without presenting freshness or above-average quality. The mid-paced title track may be the one closest to the previous album, but unfortunately it also goes down the path of predictability. Outstrider
closes with a tribute to Quorton, as if Abbath wanted to remind us where he comes from, and what this album represents.
Abbath's newborn creature will certainly not plunge the world into darkness, nor will it conquer it, but it shouldn't be completely ignored either. Although predictable and somewhat uninspired, Outstrider
is still a genuine attempt to grab the past, and win back some lost fans. I personally would prefer a step forward, without fear, without looking back, but sometimes an artist gets stuck at a crossroads, without knowing which direction to take. Outstrider
intends to overcome something, when deep down it's walking around in circles.
I'll be waiting for the next album to go in a better direction.