Say what you will about his corpse paint and his knack for iconic promotional photography posing, but Abbath still has it. Most questions and doubts should’ve been settled by 2016s stellar Abbath, but we metal fans are fickle and panic-prone when it comes to new music. Turns out that after listening Outstrider (Season of Mist), Abbath was no fluke. After decades of working as a professional musician and penning several stone-cold classics with Immortal, Abbath still has plenty left in the tank.
Doesn’t help that the man has chosen to surround himself with some top-notch help. Guitarist Ole André Farstad bolsters already solid axe work with wicked and catchy leads and solos throughout ‘Calm in Ire (Of Hurricane)’ and ‘The Artifex.’ On ‘Scythewinder’ Mia Wallace makes sure to get her due of the limelight away from the guitars and on to her low end with chunky bass lines laying the concrete foundation to the groove that dominates the latter half of that number. Also, what greatly aides Outstrider is that it’s got a thing for dynamics. Much of the push-pull exchanges between mid-tempo stomp and blast beat frenzy on ‘Bridge of Spasms’ can be attributed to the chops and focus of one Ukri Suvilehto behind the kit.
But to get down to brass tacks, Outstrider’s greatest strength may indeed be Abbath’s reverence for proper classic heavy metal. Don’t get it twisted as there are more than enough Black Metal eruptions and scathing vocals to satiate the extreme crowd, but at it’s core this album is about how bands like Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal laid out the skeletal system off which the genre would grow off of. Again, no mystery if you paid close attention to Abbath, but take in ‘Harvest Pyre’ and the title track and see how comfortable they work with their more subdued tempos, clean riffage and spectacular leads. Another bonus to this sticking to the basics approach is the commitment to economy of song and a very lean runtime.
Now don’t ever let me catch any of you doubting Abbath ever again.
8 / 10