Review & Full Album Stream: Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light

abrahma in time for the last rays of light

[Click play above to stream Abrahma’s In Time for the Last Rays of Light in its entirety. Album is out Friday on Small Stone Records and Deadlight Entertainment.]

It has been an especially long four years since France’s Abrahma released their second album, Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here). As early as 2016, the topic of a new full-length had been broached, and they revealed recording plans in consecutive Junes across 2017 and 2018. The latter took. By the time they got there, guitarist/vocalist and principle songwriter Sébastien Bismuth was the lone remaining original member of the band, with a changing lineup around him that contributed in no small part to the delay. In the end, it was by absorbing the entirety of the band Splendor Solis that Bismuth was able to construct Abrahma as a five-piece and enter Orgone Studios to record with Jaime Gomez Arellano, known for his work with Paradise Lost, GhostDream DeathOrange Goblin, etc., and the resulting LP, In Time for the Last Rays of Light, harvests cohesion from the tumult of its making.

With Bismuth joined by guitarist/synthesist/noisemaker Benoît Carel, guitarist/vocalist Florian Leguillon, bassist/vocalist Romain Hauduc and drummer/vocalist Baptiste Keriel, the eight tracks and 49 minutes of the record play out with a fullness and a patience that undercuts the basic idea that this is a completely new lineup — perhaps the fact that CarelLeguillonHauduc and Keriel were a band previously helps — and builds on the atmospheric impression Abrahma made on their second LP with a greater focus on songwriting patience and telling a story with the songs front to back. The operating theme is coping with mental illness, specifically depression, and whether it’s the wailing guitar of “Lost. Forever.” or the turns between massive chug and harmonized vocals of the penultimate “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 2: Fiddler of the Bottle,” Bismuth and company hold firmly to that focus across the record’s span. Methodical pacing and tonal weight lend depth to the mood of the material, and while there’s certainly a creative range at play, the songs serve the purpose of conveying that theme regardless of arrangement or other factors.

Those who remember Abrahma‘s 2012 debut, Through the Dusty Paths of Our Lives (review here), might be surprised at just how metal some of the guitars sound throughout In Time for the Last Rays of Light, be it at the end of 8:41 third and longest cut “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 1: Isolation Ghosts” or in the six-minute side B leadoff “Last Epistle,” which emerges from a short intro “Dusk Contemplation” with what would be the album’s most intense spirit — capping in some unabashedly death metal-style chugga-chug in the fadeout accompanied by double-kick drum that’s only too appropriate — were it not for the subsequent “Wander in Sedation,” which swirls in on a dark severity of tone and resolves its lumbering progression in a culminating stretch of blastbeats, echoing those earlier of “Lucidly Adrift” on side A, which takes hold from side A and marries together heavy post-rock with these more extreme impulses.

abrahma

What actually keeps Abrahma from being full-tilt metal is their melodic sensibility and the overarching groove of In Time for the Last Rays of Light. There are moments certainly where one might call out a doom-rooted sense of theatricality, as on closer “There Bears the Fruit of Deceit,” in which a complex arrangement of multiple vocalists — or at least multiple layers — brings mournful resolution to the turbulence preceding, going so far as to have some shouting behind Bismuth in a call-and-response in the pre-chorus, touching on a vibe that would nod to Arellano‘s work with Paradise Lost in its general atmosphere, but working from a foundation of heavy rock instead of classic doom. Still, Abrahma make the lines between styles blurrier on In Time for the Last Rays of Light than they ever have before, and that in itself is something of a victory when it comes to establishing their sound on their third record. They are their most progressive here and their most sonically bold, from the memorable lead line of “Lost. Forever.” setting the downer course for what follows through the last march of “There Bears the Fruit of Deceit” into its fading ringout.

In keeping with that, Bismuth‘s presence as a frontman has never been so palpable. His vocal melodies range further than they have before, and with the others surrounding him at various points throughout, it leads to a more complete and more engaging experience, contrasting the instrumental thrust at times, but finding a foothold in that contrast. And maybe that’s the idea of the record as a whole — exploring or at least trying to come to an understanding of that dynamic and finding a place within it from which to express the emotionality at the core of In Time for the Last Rays of Light. Depression is not an easy to talk about. If it were, it would probably be less pervasive. But Abrahma do not shy away from saying what they want to say about it, and while they don’t go so far as to offer some clichéd hopeful ending, they do manage to craft something beautiful out of the darkened foundations from which they work. The inevitable question, then, is what it will lead to, and how indicative In Time for the Last Rays of Light ultimately will be of where the band are headed, creatively as well as in the simple reality of the players involved.

I don’t know if Abrahma‘s lineup woes are done or not, but listening to “Last Epistle,” “Lucidly Adrift,” “Eclipse of the Sane Pt. 2: Fiddler of the Bottle” and each of the other tracks that make it, it’s clear In Time for the Last Rays of Light was an album that the band needed to make, almost to exorcise it from their collective system. It is a record of striking instrumental purpose and expressive intent. It not only moves their sound forward from where it was four years ago, but it changes the narrative of the group’s function and that of Bismuth as a bandleader and songwriter. What might come next, I won’t speculate, but for the way it lays bare the personal and pushes Abrahma to places they’ve never been, it is an achievement worthy of the obvious pains taken to make it.

Abrahma website

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Small Stone Records website

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Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

Deadlight Entertainment website

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