Why Abbath is now stronger than ever
One of the most iconic figures in extreme metal, Abbath has weathered the storm of his breakup with Immortal, but for him, the battle has only just begun
The battle horns have sounded. Unless you’ve been sitting in a log cabin the past few months, you’ll have seen it all: Hammer’s gone-viral pictures of Abbath and his new bandmates, King and Creature, invading famous London landmarks and proving that you don’t need Photoshop to show how the world warps around the frontman; the live, in-studio video for the insurrectionary charge of Fenrir Hunts offering a visceral insight into the new trio as a fully fledged, bloodthirsty sonic battalion; and the unleashing of the new album track Winter Bane, its sweeping riffs like huge scythes sending plumes of frost into the biting winter air.
All these are consciousness-raiding parties for the imminent Abbath album and the first UK live dates later this month, the anticipation that’s been building, the allegiances declared online, the reactions to the sight of that corpsepaint, like it’s tuned back in to a unique and sharply vivid channel on the spectrum of heavy metal, all a clear signal that the return of Abbath from last year’s schism with Immortal is an event. A necessary tale recovered.
"I got my genes from rock’n’roll very early, starting at five years old, the first rock’n’roll song I ever heard. I never forget it." And Abbath breaks into song. “‘I found my thrill... on Blueberry Hill...’ Every time I hear that fucking song I get goosebumps. And I discovered Elvis and then this crazy super-spaceman, fire-breathing monster from the Kiss cards in the candy bags. Then I heard Destroyer for the first time. Your friends you grow up with, they’re like, ‘When I grow up I want to be a policeman, what do you want to be when you grow up?’ ‘Gene Simmons!’ I didn’t know how to say it back then, so for many years I said ‘Genne See-mon.’ And I realise now, Paul Stanley, he’s lost. It’s Ace and Gene. They should sit down and make a new album. That would be fucking awesome, I’m sure.”
Sitting in his home studio in Bergen, with pictures of meetings with Gene, Lemmy, Tony Iommi and numerous other rock icons bedecking the walls of the room next door, Abbath is in garrulous if free-roaming mood. A man who’s still emerging from not just the break-up of his band that had become an institution on the metal landscape, but the loss of long-time brothers in arms Demonaz and Horgh, you get the feeling that numerous threads are all fighting in the same mental space. Self-examination, recollections, excitement, obsession with a narrative of rock’n’roll that’s set the terms for his entire life, illustrative bursts into song as if to prove that point and tangents you soon realise are pointed metaphors get tested out in real time, brought into focus by the determination and uncontainable belief that’s marked him out as one of the most iconic, if idiosyncratic frontmen in the metal world. As to the creation of Abbath, therein lies a tale, too.
"How the fuck do you deal with the world? Deal with yourself first