Exploration of the musical landscape is an engaging and wonderful thing. Peeking into the nooks and hidden places searching for undiscovered sounds is a thrill. Often, these expeditions yield little in return other than a few intriguing morsels that fail to stave off the deeper hunger. Sometimes though, at the top of a mountain or in cavernous depths, a wellspring will make itself known. Such is the case with Look, Here Comes The Dark!, Abraham’s newest release, out May 11th through Pelagic Records. This is a double album of over two hours of experimental post-metal. The density and running time of this album may be met with trepidation by some, understandably so; as a personal fan of longer records, this was a challenge even for me at times. What I require of lengthy albums is that they earn my ear for this extended duration. Let’s begin the assessment!
In general experimental music, especially in the heavier, metal-based genres, an album begins with ambiance or a low-key introduction. “Ride The Last Sunrise” is the first audible tip of this sonic iceberg. Without any lead-in, the vocals and instrumentation crash in with blissfully dissonant harmonies and crushing rhythms. This is the first indicator that Abraham, although they are asking for a lot of your time, will not be wasting any of it. This seven-minute track is full of thunderous drumming, guitar feedback, and crunchy bass lines that revel in the murk and mire. “Wanderer” sees the vocal approach take on a hardcore and sludge aesthetic, and the instrumentation pushes and pulls throughout. Near the middle of the track, noisy and experimental ambiance gives the song a moment to catch its breath. The second half ratchets up the intensity, proving that the quiet respite did it some good.
At this point, just a few songs into this glacial release, it’s hard not to fall in love with each element at play. There’s a cohesive bond that each song shares, even with the diversity of approaches to the individual compositions. “Hyperoine” dusts off some phaser-like synth sounds and forges them together with a pulsating bass, but there’s enough grime on the guitars to cover any shine that may be just below the surface. “Silent At Last” brings pure evil sludge and doom to bear on the back half of the first album. In stark contrast, “Invocation” has rich choral vocals awash with effects, and “Rise Goddess” sees retching black metal vocals paired with circling cleans over a triumphant composition. There’s so much creativity and confidence coating each song here, I wondered how Abraham could have a second album’s worth of material just as full and rich waiting for me.
If you’re listening to Look, Here Comes The Dark! on CD, this is where you’d put the second disc in your player; if listening on vinyl, this is where the third record gets unsleeved and placed on the turntable. The first song that you’d hear after this is the black metal-infused, “Errant”. Along with the seething metal vocals, there’s a post-hardcore performance accompanying it that made me think of the band’s country mates Impure Wilhelmina. After track one closes, “Sanctuaire” begins with just a few guitar notes injected into a desperate vocal plea. Things slowly take shape, and then the instrumentation begins to chip away at this monolith. By the time that we reach the midpoint of the song, it has become one of the most melodic sculptures to be found on this release. The vocals are layered, and the addition of more traditional drumming patterns and a rolling bell synth adds a tone that is as surprising as it is beautiful. As “Sanctuaire” fades, “God Mycelium” begins. The elements that the made the end of the last song so memorable are here from the start, with Abraham adding in further effects along the way. If Thrice had released a more experimental song, I can imagine that it would sound something like this, sans some of the more harsh vocals that appear from time to time. Melody rises to the surface more and more as the song winds through its nine-minute runtime.
What’s becoming more evident on the second part of this double album is that melody is taking more of a front seat here than on the first nine songs. Abraham don’t let up the intensity at all, but the dissonance fades as tracks progress. “Vulvaire” is a song that sums this approach up quite well. The chord progressions are a little more traditional (but by no means passé), and the addition of piano brings a cleanliness to the sound that hasn’t quite been there until now. This juxtaposition makes it one of my favorite songs on Look, Here Comes The Dark!. It’s a testament to how well Abraham thought out the decisions on where to inject new ideas into somewhat stale formulas.
Nearing the end of this massive release, we are treated to a few elemental tracks. “Wind” leads off with actual wind effects, slowly crawling into a funeral doom song that would make Bell Witch proud. The vocals see their deepest growls here, and are almost buried beneath the weighty instrumentation including an organ-like synth. It’s the dirtiest dirge you’ll hear on the album; bravo Abraham! Up next is one of the more traditional-sounding songs here, and it’s absolutely perfect. “Erth” continues the doom trend from the previous track, but is overall more melodic than its predecessor, adding more synthesized atmosphere to deepen the mood. The following “Fire” is a nine-minute slice of chaos that serves the title quite well, and “Space Departure”, the final piece, is a culmination of everything that came before it. What a stupendous send-off for this gargantuan record!
Summarizing Look, Here Comes The Dark! has proven to be a herculean task. It’s a deep and demanding set of songs that ranges from bombastic sludge to torch-lit doom. To the credit of Abraham, these songs, while they all contribute to the whole of the album(s), you can actually eat this elephant one bite at a time if you wish. Listening to 30 minutes or an hour is still rewarding. Although I still believe listening all the way through at once is the best way to consume this record, it’s not a requirement. Each track manages to have its own identity while still serving the context as a whole. The production is perfect for this collection of songs, and the mix lets the calamity shine without making it unlistenable. This ambitious album hit its mark, and I have no doubt that it will show up on many end-of-the-year lists for 2018. Look, Here Comes The Dark! invites the listener to the top of a mountain; the effort required to reach the summit and the view from the top is worth the climb.
Notable Tracks: “Invocation”; “Rise Goddess”; “Sanctuaire”; “Vulvaire”; “Erth”; “Fire”
FFO: Bolt Gun, Old Man Gloom, Sumac, Bell Witch