THE ABBEY is a 5-piece progressive doom ensemble from Finland, whose debut album “Word of Sin” will be released on February 17th, 2023, via Season of Mist. Its line-up is, by far, one of the most impressive I could ever imagine: founder of the band Jesse Heikkinen on guitar, keyboards, percussions, and vocals – a multi-instrumentalist who has been collaborating with many bands, besides having his solo project called ITERUM NATA – then Natalie Koskinen from SHAPE OF DESPAIR on vocals, Vesa Ranta, the former SENTENCED drummer who already shared a band with guitarist Janne Markus, as they have been playing in THE MAN-EATING TREE for a few years, and Henri Arvola on bass. The band’s name takes inspiration from the abbey of Thelema, located in south of Italy, which was used as a spiritual center by occultist Aleister Crowley, whose name should sound familiar to every so-called “metalhead”: yes, I am talking about none other than Mr. Crowley, often mentioned and celebrated by the biggest personalities in metal music culture.
With these premises, my expectations towards the album were insanely high and I am glad to say that they were fully met. “Word of Sin” is a perfect blend of ‘70s-flavored progressive rock, Finnish doom metal, and occult rock. It does really sound massively influenced by bands such as KING CRIMSON and YES, but also some OPETH-inspired patterns are detectable, as well as CANDLEMASS’ trademark epicness. The central role of guitars works as a guiding principle throughout all of the nine songs: it is pretty clear that the composer’s sources of inspiration are numerous and diverse, making the opus rich and multifaceted on many levels. In this regard, a band that had a big impact on Heikkinen were Australian avant-garde act DEAD CAN DANCE, whose gloomy atmospheres did really leave a mark on his approach. Moreover, his performance as a singer is perhaps the most impressive aspect, since the vocal lines are not only well-written and well-executed, but also very effective in delivering the message: there are a thick ritualistic vibe and a compelling charm of evil, which do not sound too new, but in this case, they make the opus stand out due to a massive dose of elegance and class. In this regard, I would also suggest watching the video of track two, “A Thousand Dead Witches,” which was directed by Ranta himself, as he is a well-known photographer and director.
Natalie Koskinen’s ethereal yet powerful voice revealed a different shade, if compared to her “usual” style in SHAPE OF DESPAIR, and I really appreciate her attitude in exploring new territories without giving up on her peculiar identity; the fourth track on the album, “Starless,” has been composed by guitarist Janne Markus, and Koskinen took care of writing the lyrics, which turned out to be the quintessence of melancholy, beautifully expressed in a way that Finns are particularly good at. The outcome is an 8-minute journey into the author’s desperate thoughts, at the end of which march-like drumming highlights a suffocating sense of hopelessness.
“Desert Temple” shows excellent guitar-work and an unpredictable structure, very energetic, where a further shade of the band’s creativity can be found. The solemnity in the following tune, “Widow’s Will,” proves that another main feature in this album is the surprising variety of its tracklist: none of its tunes sound similar to each other, but they are deeply linked, as if they were part of an itinerary whose final destination was self-knowledge.
A strong vintage vibe is present on “Queen of Pain,” a powerful prog-infused dirge where Koskinen, thanks to her bewitching and captivating vocals, casts a spell on the listeners, also because of an extremely catchy chorus that got stuck in my head very easily. “Old Ones (Prequel)” sounds like an intro to the closing tune, “Old Ones,” which is also the longest song on the album: as a proper cherry on top, it summarizes what the entire opus is about. A clever use of a church organ makes it even more valuable.
The ceremony is done. “Word of Sin” does not sound like a mere album, it feels rather like an all-encompassing experience. Let’s hope THE ABBEY would delight us with a second chapter, because I am already looking forward to it.
Written by Licia Mapelli
- Rat King
- A Thousand Dead Witches
- Desert Temple
- Widow’s Will
- Queen of Pain
- Old Ones: Prequel
- Old Ones
Jesse Heikkinen – Guitar, keyboard, percussions, vocals
Natalie Koskinen – Vocals
Janne Markus – Guitar
Henri Arvola – Bass
Vesa Ranta – Drums
Season of Mist