It’s not every day that an album based in part upon Star Wars mythology arrives in the promo inbox. But then, it’s not every day that an album like Abeloth, from Slovenian duo Snøgg is released, either. Experimental in nature, with a boundary-pushing sense of fearlessness, this EP is the work of a band who are not afraid to strike out on their own, forging their own path in the black metal underground. Recorded from improvised sessions featuring violins and field recordings in addition to the expected black metal instrumentation, Abeloth is a record whose tendrils will sink deep in to your psyche, corrupting you in the most wonderful of ways.
Consisting of three track of considerable duration – the shortest clocks in at just under eight minutes – Abeloth is a labyrinthine record, filled with a restless, disturbed nature, every bit as dark and unknowable as the creature from which the record takes it name. The violins are very much key to this, their keening, piercing sound cutting through the raw black metal of Snøgg like a knife; whilst the field recordings and noise sections add a sense of decayed grandeur to proceedings. The overall result is an incredibly forceful combination, as captivating as the best atmospheric black metal, and as unsettling as anything the likes of Deathspell Omega, Negura Bunget, or Aosoth have released. This is music of ruined temples on forgotten planets; of ancient evils freed from torment to unleash desolation upon the galaxy; of the end of all things.
Beyond this though, there’s also a personal edge to Abeloth. Whilst it may be named after a being within the Star Wars universe, there’s also inspiration from the poetry of Georg Trakl. Though this might not be obvious as first – especially as the vocals are usually buried within a raw, bleeding production that lends them an aura of inscrutability – it means that, for all its references to Sith and Jedi, there’s still something personal about Abeloth, even if it is using a sci-fi narrative to help put that across.
For an album based upon improvisation, and with a multitude of guest musicians, it’s remarkable how flowing and well-structured Abeloth feels. There is little here that feels indulgent or bloated, with the structures of the three songs flowing in ways that are natural, and tell their own narrative. It’s unusual to come across a record that feels so streamlined, yet also so vast and creative. Abeloth is a remarkable achievement, and one of the best things I have heard this year.
Abeloth is available on CD and digital download via Bandcamp.