There is no denying that Wayne, New Jersey's Abazagorath is one of the most acknowledged underground US Black Metal groups currently in existence, as well as one of those known for its revolving door of members. Their line-up has changed quite frequently over the years, currently consisting of founding vocalist and drummer Warhead (former Warhead and Immolith), as well as guitarist Ciemnosc (Beyond the Flesh, Abysmal Gates) and bassist Aversario (Death Fortress, Dethroned Emperor). Since their formation in 1995 there has been minimal studio activity. The first recording issued was the Channelling the Ethereal Moons EP in 1996, followed that year with their Winter demo and debut album Tenebrarum Cadent Exsurgemus come 1997. After its release, another demo, two more EPs and a compilation followed starting in 2002, leading to the long overdue follow-up album Sacraments of the Final Atrocity in 2004. Another gap of silence until a split release in 2007, a second about a year later, and their well received fourth EP Abazagorath in 2012. Finally, about ten years after that second full-length, roughly seventeen since the first, we have reached the third studio album titled The Satanic Verses. But is this little over fifty minute effort worth the wait, or does it find the band throwing all those years away for cheap gimmicks and genre stereotypes?

Much like their self-titled EP, The Satanic Verses has a pretty crisp digital quality at work, though it does sound slightly dulled in comparison, though thankfully not where it counts: The emotion found in the music. The enthusiasm is still present, though not always as vibrant as one would hope, and plenty of songs set up miserable snow capped worlds. "Mahound" is a nice example of this thanks to the far more blunt lead melodies that start things off. As if channelled from the most frostbitten of nations, the lead riffs set up a depressingly bleak landscape as far as the mind's eye can perceive. However, that atmosphere is one of many. The main verses and other segments find a little more aggression in the mix with a heavy dose of melody to the guitars that can bring a hint of epic beauty to the mix, such as just past the three minute mark, as well as some oath-sworn Inquisition-esque vocals and passing rituals along the way, all working together to create a fairly grand overall experience.

"The Angel Gabriel" has its share of grandiose elements as well, such as the largely epic introduction full of blistering drums and guitars with background choir vocal effects. The biblical concept of the track is established almost immediately, though the song itself is far less spiritual. The pace slows to more of a mid-tempo with plenty of held notes, as well as random spurts of speed that have some toned down blasting from the drums, as if a watered down version of the song's start. This turn of events instead casts the performance into more of a Folk tone that really does feel genuine and not like a generic nod to early material from Vintersorg or even the melodic tendencies of Dissection. Meanwhile there's "Gharaniq", which is a solid song despite being an odd mixture of Deceased hooks, first wave Black Metal housed within a Heavy Metal finish, and traces of early second wave. This one is a laid back, but a far more fun performance all around without wandering off too far out of the more serious territory that makes up everything else in this album.

"Satanic Verses" is the longest track, but by far one of the best. The rich melodies establish a truly grim and cold environment(though not frostbitten like others) that acts as your traditional Black Metal performance with what emotion exists being found largely in the hooks. While these segments offer nothing more than rich music and superb execution, it's what typically follows them and the chorus that really stands out. Additional keyboards can appear to add a little extra power to an infectious passage or bridge, such as around three-and-a-half minutes in where the pace slows to a haunting piece with hushed vocals that give way to a devastating explosion of nightmarish proportions, not to mention some blood curdling screams and dominant drum patterns that allow the slight click of the bass kick to pull to the forefront. There's even chunks that are along the lines fof Viking Metal set in the heart of winter, like around the six minute mark. But then you have the short modern Black Metal take with "Revelation," finding plenty of blast beats from the drums until the faster, tighter chords kick in by the minute mark, as well as a few ritualistic vocals. Like the following acoustic instrumental piece "Ayesha", it makes for a nice shorter track to break up the many expansive songs.

Abazagorath have once again proven New Jersey has its share of frostbitten terrain with The Satanic Verses. There's a great deal of variety found throughout that, while sometimes can be far from original, still manages to remain unique and wrapped around a core principle within the genre: Emotion. Cold, grim, dark, forlorn, melancholic, and at the end even fun and upbeat, all of which can be felt throughout this entire recording made up of largely longer tracks that have sturdy enough performances to keep the listener engaged from start to finish each time. Ten years have gone by since we last had a full-length effort from Abazagorath and fans can finally rejoice in having yet another quality album in their hands. Aside the audio itself being a little more blunt and slightly muffled compared to their most recent self-titled EP, The Satanic Verses is something that fans of Black Metal will surely appreciate and come back to for repeat spins long after their first time through.

Review originally posted at Apoch's Metal Review.