Abigail Williams – Becoming (Candlelight Records)

Named after a girl accused of being a witch in the 17th century, black metal band Abigail Williams could similarly be charged of possessing extraordinary powers.

Recorded in the brief moments between monstrous tours, Becoming is an album that slotted together relatively quickly. Abigail Williams has once again approached black metal from a new angle on this, their third release, and created an intensely powerful album.

Its ominous brutality has an immediately minimalist feel, but every touch of the guitar strings, each hit of the drums is done with great purpose and intent. The grinding intensity of the one-two of Ascension Sickness and Radiance open the album unveiling Abigail Williams’ king-size sludge-doom. Rather than blasting at you, Becoming surrounds you.

Similarly to previous albums In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns and In The Absence Of Light, this is no smash-n-grab for your attention. Nearly all of the 6 tracks on Becoming are 10 minutes long or more (the incredible Beyond The Veil clocks in at an ear-bleeding 17:30 minutes) but each one is exquisitely layered and never begin to drag.

In an almost constant state of turbulence, the AW line up has again a change of face in drummer Zach Gibson (although Gibson has twice before been AW’s drummer, Ken Bedene was the tub-thumper in residence on 2010’s In The Absence Of Light). Sorceron has been the source(rer) of stability for almost the entire AW history. His perturbing vocals and skilled rhythm guitar once again mark him out as the key talent of the California-based black metallers.

Barely a full week in to 2012 and already Abigail Williams has waved a hairy middle finger up to the black metal hordes. “Beat that!”