Since forming in Phoenix, Arizona in 2004, Abigail Williams have been through many a trial and a lot of tribulation. Yet, throughout their impressive discography — from 2008 debut In the Shadow of a Thousand Suns to last year’s stunning sleeper hit Walk Beyond the Dark — they’ve been consistent enough to allow for continued improvement, measured experimentation, and have pushed forward with enough perseverance to release not just good black metal albums, but perhaps great ones. Cases in point: 2010’s In the Absence of Light and its follow-up, 2012’s Becoming. Both albums featured primary songwriter and sole remaining founding member Ken Sorceron writing astute but aggressive black metal, the kind somewhere between but necessarily derived from Dimmu Borgir, Emperor, Wolves in the Throne Room, and Schammasch.
Decibel caught up with Sorceron for a quick chat about the rebirth of Abigail Williams (they’re on their third comeback) and the greatness that is Walk Beyond the Dark, the group’s first for Finnish label Blood Music. Indeed, Sorceron didn’t play all instruments on his newest labor of love, but it’s his vision, from opener “I Will Depart” to the 11-minute closing blinder in “The Final Failure.” Helping Sorceron are drummer Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Malignancy), bassist Bryan O’Sullivan (Mortichnia), guitarist Aamonael (Lord Mantis), guitarist Justin McKinney (The Zenith Passage, ex-The Faceless), and cellist Chris ‘Kakophonix’ Brown. Together, they’ve woven a sonic tapestry that has its center in traditional black metal but everything radiating outward is new, from post-rock to whatever genre Cobalt are aligned to.
Read on as Sorceron and Abigail Williams finally find their wings…
Tell us about the journey to get to Walk Beyond the Dark. It’s four years in the making, as I understand it.
Ken Sorceron: Yeah, it took a bit longer than usual for this one. I think a big part of it was trying to find the time to actually do the record properly. I had all the demos laying around for a majority of that time but I was so busy playing in all these other bands that it honestly just got hard to manage my time. This was also the second album in a row where I recorded an entire record and then scrapped it and started over completely.
How did Abigail Williams become part of the picture again? You were in Lord Mantis, fronted The Faceless and Wolvhammer, and then played live guitar for Tombs and Cobalt.
Ken Sorceron: I’ve been pretty busy over the years. The Faceless thing was a huge waste of time for the most part and that time would have better spent working on my own music but you do learn a lot playing with all these different people. Abigail never really left the picture though as I was doing tours in between all these other tours and always working on stuff in what little free time I had but the last release (The Accuser) that came out on Candlelight went so under the radar that I can understand why people thought the band disappeared.
The band is ostensibly a solo project of yours now. You had help from Aamonael (Lord Mantis), Justin McKinney (ex-The Faceless), and Mike Heller (Fear Factory), but Walk Beyond the Dark feels like it’s stamped exclusively by Sorceron.
Ken Sorceron: True. Its been like this for a while now though. Even the last album (The Accuser) felt a bit like a solo record even though I had 2 guest vocalists and 3 different drummers with myself included. Making an album for this band has become an incredibly personal thing for me over the years in the sense that it honestly does feel like I’m just putting myself out there naked for the world to see except instead of dick pics, it’s riffs.
Why didn’t you keep The Accuser lineup?
Ken Sorceron: I don’t think it was ever meant to be permanent. Charlie Fell was the only one that contributed any ideas musically on that record and we already work together again with Lord Mantis and at the time we had both left Lord Mantis so we just kept working together. That album is weird because it had multiple stages to how it became completed. That one also got spread out for a few years and I lived in three different states during that time.
Musically, is there a song on Walk Beyond the Dark that feels absolutely right? I know “I Will Depart” gets a lot of attention, but “Black Waves” and “Born of Nothing” are equally great.
Ken Sorceron: “Sun and Moon” is one of my favorites. “Black Waves” came out really good but I’ve had that song since around 2012 so it has less of that newness factor to me.
The cello is a nice touch through the record. How did you get in touch with Chris ‘Kakophonix’ Brown?
Ken Sorceron: I met him at a show in Cleveland after Becoming came out and we got to talking about maybe having him play live with us at some shows, which eventually happened on that album cycle. Originally, I had him track a ton of stuff before The Accuser album was made but I ended up scrapping all of it in favor of what ended up on that record. This time around I knew it was time to bring that side of the band’s sound back into the fold.
How did you find the cover? Mariusz Lewandowski is sort of a successor to Beksiński. Or, at least Beksiński’s nightmarish style.
Ken Sorceron: Honestly, Blood Music was showing me different pieces of art and artists to help me decide on who to use and when I saw that piece I immediately wanted it and had them work out a deal with him. I’m not really one of those guys that keeps up on current releases or what bands are cool, etc., so I actually had no idea he was some sort of hot artist at the time. I really appreciate the artwork on this album.
Sonically, Walk Beyond the Dark is clearer, more distinct. You can hear all the notes and the feeling behind the notes. The Accuser was a little murky all things considered. Was Walk Beyond the Dark more of a reaction to The Accuser’s sound or merely where you wanted to take the sound this time around? I guess, organic vs. directional.
Ken Sorceron: The Accuser is a dark record in many ways. Its ugly and distorted and even the pretty parts are purposely made nasty. This album is in some ways the mirror image. I wanted to take aspects of what I thought made albums like Becoming, The Accuser and even In The Shadow… great and create something new, honest and revealing. I think the clear production helped in that regard.
It does sound like you’re purposefully taking Abigail Williams out of the previous chapter (label, bandmates, sound, etc.). Is that what’s happening on Walk Beyond the Dark?
Ken Sorceron: Absolutely. It felt like a clean slate and I was able to choose a few people to work with that made it all seem fresh again. Everyone involved in this album (Mike Heller, Christopher Brown, Bryan O’Sullivan) and the guest spots (Justin McKinney, Andrew Markuszewski) really made this the most enjoyable project that I’ve done to date.
Any lessons learned that you’ve learned over the years with Abigail Williams that you’d like to share with younger bands?
Ken Sorceron: Don’t let what you’ve read about yourself on the Internet or the media define you.
** Abigail Williams’ new album, Walk Beyond the Dark, is out now on Blood Music. Order it directly from Abigail Williams via Big Cartel (HERE) or from Blood Music (HERE). The band also have mugs, backpacks, posters, drawstring bags, tote bags and t-shirts available.