Formed in 2005 in the infernal confines of Phoenix, Arizona, symphonic black metal monsters Abigail Williams have since transplanted to New York City. Sharing the name of one of the first couple of young accusers in the 1692 witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts, the band has gradually phased out the more hardcore (or as some put it, “deathcore”) elements of their early sound before the release of their debut, In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns (which featured the production talents of former Obituary guitarist, James Murphy), in favor of a razor-sharp symphonic black metal attack. Through a few line-up changes, the band is now a three-man army. They have recently continued their black metal conquest of annihilation with the release of their second full-length.

In The Absence Of Light (Candlelight Records) takes the form of eight hellish blasts of USBM insanity, in a display that is ultimately more ravenous than the predecessor. Produced by Peter Tagtgren (Immortal, Celtic Frost), much of the band’s latest effort echoes of the approach of bands like Dimmu Borgir, some Watain or, vocally, Cradle of Filth with occasional low growls. A blast beat frenzy is audible throughout, accompanied by enough eerie keyboard and lead solos to summon any scorched witch carcass from the grave, ready for revenge. The record’s opening track, “Hope, The Great Betrayal” sweeps in with a ringing bell, melancholy keys and guitars before kicking down the door with a raspy howl courtesy of vocalist/guitarist Sorceron, continuing at a galloping pace, complete with an ominous voice sample, howling wolves and sudden stops. What follows is, for the most part, in line with a no-frills black metal formula. “An Echo In Our Legends“, “Infernal Divide” and “What Hells Await Me” are all definite highlights of the latest Abigail Williams ritual. The latter takes a mid-paced stance with the keyboards a bit less noticeable in the madness. It is with that notion that, unlike some symphonic black metal outfits, Abigail Williams does not have to rely on the keyboard arrangements to carry the songs.

While they may not be reinventing the notorious black metal wheel, and they have surely inspired a fair share of shit-talking, it can just as easily be said that with In The Absence Of Light, Abigail Williams have definitely trimmed the excess (as in, anything that could be labeled “core”) and stepped up their game in an undeniable manner. In the realm of symphonic black metal, where it seems all to easy to come across as a blatant clone, the band seems more than ready to burn all opposition at the stake.