This is hardly the same band I saw play the 2nd Annual (and apparently final) South Bend Metalfest with Decrepit Birth, Neuraxis, and The Faceless in 2008. Back then their claim to fame was a Symphonic Black Metal/Metalcore hybrid replete with hot babe keyboardist (who has since departed, as they all eventually do, for bigger dicks and more money, AKA: Cradle of Filth). What I’m hearing now is a completely different animal. Becoming immediately signals a shift in style and approach with 11-minute leadoff track “Ascension Sickness.” No more fast hooks and brutal breakdowns with big production and driving synths. Try lush atmospherics tangling with subtle blasting. A somber, depressive vibe seems to have taken the place of youthful exuberance. Still, the song is too damn long. Especially considering at about 6 minutes in, it dies completely, only to be reborn in a sea of incoherent voices and ambient noise. A return to structure with roughly three minutes to go is by now too little too late. The next two tracks, “Radiance” and “Elestial,” serve to be slightly more palatable. Both serviceable attempts at SDBM, albeit with somewhat anti-climactic finishes and beginnings that take a while to get off the ground. By the way, that’s a reoccurring theme with this album, taking a while to get off the ground. There’s a lot of time spent staggering through the frozen wilderness, wounded, leaving nearly half of the record feeling like an intro. “Infinite Fields of Mind” is 10 minutes of boredom. Again, a feeling of meandering… searching… where is the song at? “Three Days of Darkness” is just segue filler (thanks, just what the LP needed) that leads to the sadistically 17-minute closer, “Beyond the Veil.” That’s a pretty cruel length, guys. It’s especially unfair to subject a listener to a 17-minute epic from a band going through such a drastic stylistic transition. The song begins with violin, then slowly goes nowhere. Finally at about four minutes in we get a few somber melodies that eventually build up to some speedy Emperor worship. But then the song retreats again and we’re back to standing still. As someone who was familiar with the band in the past, but not really a fan, I have to wonder if the same audience used to getting pummeled is going to be receptive to being lulled to sleep by amateur dynamics night. I do like the direction Abigail Williams is headed in, but they’re not there yet. And I pity the son of a bitch driving behind them.
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