The departure of Abbath from Norse black metal gods Immortal in 2015 is as tale as strange and sad as KK Downing’s flight from Judas Priest four year earlier. Happily, in both cases, we’ve ended up with heartening, worthy and energised self-named projects by headstrong metal icons with something to prove, each glorying in unrestrained guitar worship and full-force metal mayhem.
Three albums into his nominal solo career, it now seems a wonder that Abbath spent so long grimacing under the constraints of Immortal; he’s since found a multitude of new voices to inhabit, and although his off-the-wall eccentricity, playful panache and rock’n’roll attitude were kept on a leash in the frostbitten realms of Blashyrkh, they’re gleefully let loose all over his rollicking eponymous albums.
And none more so than Dread Reaver, which edges the much-loved/much-mocked frontman ever closer to the sweet spot between Bathory, Motörhead, Manowar and Kiss (his stated aim for this album’s ear-ringing production). The careers of Lemmy and Quorthon are most evident musically, exemplified perfectly by the opening one-two of Acid Haze – taking a classic black metal route through Arctic riffs flurried over propulsive drums – and Scarred Core, a Philthy-beaten biker rumble making good use of Abbath’s experience fronting Motörhead tribute band Bömbers. Advance cut Dream Cull bangs them together with perhaps a little Kiss razzmatazz, while the cover of Metallica’s Trapped Under Ice is neatly chosen both for its thematic relevance and the loose, rough, heads-down spirit with which it’s discharged, forming a handy encapsulation of the album’s strengths.
It perhaps lacks the focus and bite of prime Immortal, but Abbath’s English lyricist Simon Dancaster keeps things interesting with grotesque imagination and cerebral introspection; busting out great archaic words like ‘Myrmidon’ and ‘Septentrion’, he brings another a touch of class to this greasy beast.