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ABBATH - Outstrider

Release date July 5/19 (Season Of Mist)

Issued almost a year to the day after Immortal's well-received Northern Chaos Gods, Abbath's sophomore platter Outstrider is destined to spark Abbath vs Immortal arguments amongst the corpse-painted set during this BBQ season. The camps are divided and the armies set for battle, so all that there's left to do is to choose a side. Onto the death deck Outstrider goes to make its claim for glory...

We're first met with an acoustic driven, orchestral-swept riff before 'Calm In Ire (Of Hurricane)' proceeds into more expected At The Heart Of Winter pastures, Abbath's admonishing vocals leading the way. An urgent gargle from our main man initiates follow-up track 'Bridge Of Spasms' before exploding into one of the more forceful and straight forward blastfests of the package. A great one/two punch to open an album to be sure. Elsewhere, the mid-point title-track proves to be another highlight, a lush acoustic intro giving way to a memorable mid-tempo stomp evoking images of battling up snow-drenched hills. Also of note is the absolutely crushing cover of Bathory's 'Pace Till Death' that concludes the platter.

Altogether there's 35 minutes of new original material (over 8 tracks) with another four minutes tacked on for the cover tune. Some may complain about the record's brevity, but you won't hear it from this corner, with me being a believer in the "less is more" approach to albums. Personally, I long for the good old days of two twenty-minute sides equating to a release. Ah, the smell of fresh vinyl!

Back to the business at hand, overall I find this album very similar to the self-titled debut from 2016. The highlight tracks will no doubt rouse up the natives in concert pits throughout the world, while other ditties are destined to be forgotten. Additionally, gotta say that I find the rhythm guitars a bit buried in the mix, forcing the listener to concentrate to form the patterns, instead of being hit across the forehead with a 2X4.

Back to the initial question of which camp does this reviewer find himself after listening to this. My initial, gutless reaction would be to state neutrality given that both Immortal and Abbath have strong records supporting their cases. However, pushed to choose a side, I'd have to say I prefer the more traditionally violent fare of Northern Chaos Gods. Damn close though.

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