As rich and diverse as our music scene is, Chico is a town sorely lacking in black metal. Doom, death, sludge, grind and other variants pass through with relative abundance, but only rarely does Chico attract practitioners of metal’s coldest, darkest manifestation. Perhaps the valley heat isn’t the most fertile ground for such a quintessentially Scandinavian art form.
Abigail Williams, however, is another beast entirely. Hailing from none other than Phoenix, Arizona and lead by multi-instrumentalist Ken Sorceron, this band of adventurous black metal experimenters have made a career out of mangling every stylistic convention held sacred in black metal—and consequently stoking the ire of its notoriously snobby devotees.
The band began their tumultuous career with an EP entitled Legends in 2006, sporting a brand of melodic black metal heavily indebted to the cascading influx of ultra- modern American metalcore bands. Anchored by Sorceron amidst a revolving door lineup, the project refused to stand still, reinventing itself on each of its three subsequent LPs, all the while moving closer and closer to the blackness of their Scandinavian influences. Their most recent record, 2012’s expansive Becoming, was an austere, mature and organic piece of atmospheric black metal that shaved off the last vestiges of their metalcore roots.
In preparation for their show, I caught up with newest member, guitarist Jeff Wilson. Joining Abigail Williams in 2013, Wilson made a name for himself as the axeman of various Chicago extreme metal bands, including sludge metal miserablists Wolvhammer and greyscale post-metallers Chrome Waves, among many others.
Abigail Williams has traditionally been the brainchild of Ken Sorceron. Has your own writing style influenced Abigail Williams’ new material thus far? If so, how?
At the point when I joined the band last year, there was already over 2 albums worth of material written. I would have to say when it comes to the writing for the new record, I’ll obviously be adding some layers, but I don’t really see myself adding many riffs this time around.
The band’s progression since Legends back in 2006 is quite unique. Often we see metal bands become more modern, polished and perhaps accessible as they grow older, but Abigail Williams seems to grow more raw, organic, and atmospheric with every release. Do you agree? Do you see the new material heading in a similar direction?
I totally agree with that. The newer material is atmospheric, but not as extreme as Becoming. In my opinion, there’s definitely more focus on having a group of standout songs as opposed to, say, a body of work that should be listened to in order; from front to back; like the last record.
From my understanding, Abigail Williams now sports a lineup with three guitar players—yourself, Sorceron, and Ian Jekelis. Has this been a challenge?
Not particularly; I think the three of us have a mutual respect for one another. Ian isn’t really into touring so much anymore, so I’m handling all of the live stuff at the moment.
How does your membership with Abigail compare to that of your other bands, such as Chrome Waves and Wolvhammer?
It’s definitely a little more laid back with Abigail, as I basically handle everything with those other bands; from all of the writing, to answering every email. I’m happy to help out with this band as much as I can, but Ken is still the captain when it comes to AW.
Tell us a little about your influences. Do you have any influences outside of the metal genre, or is it entirely metal?
I rarely listen to any newer metal bands at this point; none of it really appeals to my ears. 99% of it lacks creativity or emotion. I basically stick to the same old stuff I’ve been influenced by for years: Nick Cave, The Cure, My Dying Bride, Tiamat, etc.
I think any metalhead can tell you about that one record or song that made it all “click”. What got you hooked into the world
of extreme music?
I guess I’d probably have to go with like, In The Nightside Eclipse [by Emperor], or Filosofem [by Burzum]. The vibe of those 2 records still blows me away to this day.
You’re old enough to have witnessed a relatively recent changeover of the way music is produced and consumed. Some take a more conservative route, decrying a perceived devaluing of creative works at the hands of internet pirates; others take
a more welcoming attitude, embracing an unprecedented ability to reach a worldwide fanbase easily and cheaply. Where do you align yourself? Do you fall on either side, or somewhere in the middle?
This is something that I could argue for hours. I’m more on the conservative side. I spend nearly every minute of my day working on band-related activities, so I sort of feel like I deserve to be compensated for the amount of time I’ve put in. There’s a lot of sacrifice that people don’t consider when you’re doing this kind of thing for a living, and it just seems like this newer generation of fans feel they’re entitled to everything for nothing. I remember growing up feeling lucky when a band I loved came to town or put out a new record, now the fans think the band owes them something if they decide to show up at all… It’s sad.
See Abigail Williams perform June 4th at LaSalles alongside Panzerfaust (Canada), Lecherous Nocturne (SC), Sorin, Aberrance, and The Convalescence (OH). $10, 8pm.