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An Abstract Illusion - Woe review

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Band: An Abstract Illusion
Album: Woe
Release date: September 2022

01. The Behemoth That Lies Asleep
02. Slaves
03. Tear Down This Holy Mountain
04. Prosperity
05. Blomsterkrans
06. In The Heavens Above, You Will Become A Monster
07. This Torment Has No End, Only New Beginnings

This is no illusion, abstract or otherwise: Woe is the real deal.

Swedish trio An Abstract Illusion rocked up in 2016 with their debut full-length album, Illuminate The Path, and because it’s a melodic extreme progressive metal album, it obviously went down swimmingly on this website. From my own perspective, while it didn’t have quite the memorability or emotional pull to keep me coming back to it, the take on progged-up melodeath worked rather well in my eyes. Still, it left enough room for growth on subsequent efforts, and with 6 years to hone their craft, An Abstract Illusion have certainly had the time to grow. Now, with the release of Woe, it’s clear that they’ve put that time to excellent use.

Clocking in just shy of an hour, Woe is framed as a single-part, multi-movement epic, with the starts and ends of successive songs blending into one another. It’s apt that I’m reviewing this record only a couple of days after covering the latest Toehider album, which was released as a single track. With that album, I found myself both acknowledging the need to frame it as a single song due to the individual segments not being fully formed as songs, while also feeling that each section didn’t always naturally fit alongside those surrounding it. In contrast, Woe is able to be separated into individual tracks due to them being built and developed into standalone compositions, while also clicking very effectively as a singular whole. In short, Woe is an album comprised of strong individual songs, but it also comes together as greater than the sum of its parts when listened to in a single sitting.

Stylistically, bands that can be used as reference points during those 60 minutes include Ne Obliviscaris, whose balance of melody and extremity in lengthy songs is nicely mirrored by An Abstract Illusion. Further comparators include, but are not limited to, Cynic (particularly due to the vocoder vocals in the first track), Fallujah in the mix of intense percussion with more atmospheric guitar leads, Abigail Williams in sections that flirt with atmo-black, Between The Buried And Me (their spacier moments come through strongly for me when the clean vocals enter the fray on “Prosperity”), and of course, Opeth. Yet, like the best up-and-coming bands, there’s enough substance here that, while these bands register subconsciously while listening, one’s attention isn’t distracted away from what An Abstract Illusion are putting in front of you.

As accomplished as Woe is, it takes some time to fully get into its stride. “The Behemoth That Lies Asleep” is mostly an atmospheric scene-setter (although it gives Christian Berglönn ample opportunity to show off his drum skills), and one that builds towards a climax, only to pull back before going over the bridge. It’s only when “Slaves” arrives that everything kicks into gear, and the ‘Opeth-meets-tech-death’ contortion of this track, while intriguing, doesn’t necessarily demand your undivided attention. Still, it does a good job of helping listeners work their way into the album just enough that, when the real treasure comes, they’re primed to appreciate it. And that treasure comes right after “Slaves”, in the form of the magnificent “Tear Down This Holy Mountain”.

From the opening clarinet and the densely atmospheric build in the opening couple of minutes of this track, through the beautiful guitar solos/leads piercing through a blaze of blasts and chaos, and into a left-field trip-hop interlude before a lush finale that features both angelic choirs and blackened tech-death. Across this track, An Abstract Illusion run a gamut a emotions, styles and intensities, and it comes together sumptuously. From this point on, there’s no turning back, as the early euphoric melodicism of “Prosperity” segues into a delectable extended djent chugfest.

Apart from the slightly slow opening 10 minutes or so, the only other place where I feel Woe could perhaps reign itself in is with “Blomsterkrans”; the piano, spoken word, strings, and everything else make for a pleasant Nordic Giants-esque cinematic vista, and it does start to tug on the heartstrings as it builds, but at nigh-on 6 minutes, it maybe drags things out for a smidge too long. However, just like “Slaves”, this track is immediately followed by an absolute barnstormer in what is the album’s other plus-10-minute song and its other standout cut, “In The Heavens Above, You Will Become A Monster”. Any drifting thoughts are brought right back to the action by an onslaught of dramatic death metal, exciting synth and guitar leads, and an excellently incorporated female sung cameo feature.

An Abstract Illusion have done exactly what they needed to do on this album: build on the strengths of the debut and up the ante on the songwriting front. The end results speak for themselves, as with Woe, the Swedes are seemingly destined to move up an echelon or two in the modern prog-metal hierarchy.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 9
Originality: 7
Production: 8

Written on 21.09.2022 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments: 7   Visited by: 167 users
22.09.2022 - 08:01
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
One of rare band i have seen live hmmm 2012 maybe when they gave free demo CD to all who attended gig, it was a festival... I went to see Iced Earth in days when Jon was not ruined all.
Life is to short for LOVE, there is many great things to do online !!!

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''

I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing
22.09.2022 - 08:04
Rating: 9
A Nice Guy
You got to review a possible AOTY for me, and a very good job well done I say
22.09.2022 - 09:53

Great music but too much talking/interlude.
22.09.2022 - 12:10
Rating: 10

Could someone recommend some bands doing trip-hop on par with the interlude in the third track? I think it sounded awesome in the midst of a brutal atmosphere!
22.09.2022 - 13:23
Rating: 9

Written by Bjamm on 22.09.2022 at 12:10

Could someone recommend some bands doing trip-hop on par with the interlude in the second track? I think it sounded awesome in the midst of a brutal atmosphere!

Not exactly what you mean but you might wanna check the latest record by White Ward
23.09.2022 - 11:03
Rating: 9

Agree with all written above, great album, with a wonderful atmosphere to it, perfect for this gloomy autumn day... at work
27.09.2022 - 00:03

Written by DarkWingedSoul on 23.09.2022 at 11:03

Agree with all written above, great album, with a wonderful atmosphere to it, perfect for this gloomy autumn day... at work

It is a great season for this kind of listen!

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