The Abbey is a Finnish band assembled by multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Jesse Heikkinen. Heikkinen has been in multiple bands previously, as well as recording solo material under the name Iterum Nata. He was inspired to create The Abbey after being asked to do guest vocals on a friend’s doom metal album. He now says his new five-piece progressive doom ensemble has the potential to be far more than just a side project and he cites some very interesting influences alongside Opeth and the stalwarts of the doom metal scene.
“During the writing and recording, I listened to King Crimson’s Red quite a lot, so I’m sure I got some influences from John Wetton’s singing on that album. The vocal harmonies were heavily inspired by bands like E.L.O, Queen and Yes.”
Heikkinen does seem to be happy to make his influences known to the audience. He revealed in a recent interview that one of the songs on the album is a tribute to Dead Can Dance, and my money is on Widow’s Will, the more spoken-word style vocals also reminding me of Type O Negative a little too. There is even a song on the album called Starless, no doubt a nod to the King Crimson track that shares its name.
When it comes to other bands that might have influenced The Abbey’s debut album, there is an elephant in the room. Well not so much an elephant, more of a ghost. When I saw the album cover and logo for Word of Sin it reminded me of Ghost albums, and when I started listening to the album it wasn’t just the artwork that was familiar. This album really reminds me of early Ghost albums, not just a little, a lot.
Opening track King Rat, and other songs A Thousand Dead Witches and Queen of Pain, could easily pass for lost Ghost songs if I didn’t know any better. The main difference between the two bands is that early Ghost songs seemed to be built around basslines, whereas the inventive guitar riffs on Word of Sin take centre stage. I actually really like Ghost, so the combination of being melodic, catchy and heavy in equal measure worked for me on this record as it does on theirs. The addition of a second vocalist, who is female, does give The Abbey another element that helps to differentiate between the two Scandinavian bands.
The guitar playing on this album stands out for me, there are some interesting choices made with riffs never quite doing what you expect them to. As fits the genre, these songs have interesting layered intros and outros, and sections that build and build into monster choruses. Just like HIM, The Rasmus and For the Imperium, this is another Finnish band who have perfected the art of the earworm chorus. Be warned, they will be be stuck in your head for days.
The production is really strong and when the most cinematic and the most sludgy moments land, they land hard. And who doesn’t like a church organ? They put that to great use, especially for the final breakdown on epic 12-minute-plus closing track Old Ones. All in all, I really enjoyed this album, once I got past the obvious comparison.
It does feel odd to be listening to one band and thinking so much about another though, and before I saw Ghost was one of the tags used on Bandcamp I almost felt a little guilty for leaning into the comparison so hard. I don’t know if Scandinavian progressive doom metal all sounds like this in general and this is just what the genre presents. Maybe the combination of sounds and influences just happens to put them in a similar space to Tobias Forge’s band of nameless ghouls. Or they could be blatantly trying to cash in on Ghost’s huge success. Or perhaps I’m a philistine who would have said Marillion were just Genesis 2.0 back in the day and who needs to go away and learn more about the well-established Finnish doom metal scene.
The Abbey or Ghost would not exist without the likes of Candlemass forging the way in doom metal. There would be no doom metal without Blue Öyster Cult or Black Sabbath. So, if you think the last few Ghost albums have moved them too much into an ’80s inspired sound, then you can stay closer to the ’70s with The Abbey instead. If you don’t like Ghost at all, I have a feeling this LP won’t be for you.
01. Rat King (4:42)
02. A Thousand Dead Witches (4:35)
03. Crystallion (6:17)
04. Starless (7:53)
05. Desert Temple (4:32)
06. Widow’s Will (4:23)
07. Queen of Pain (5:22)
08. Old Ones: Prequel (2:34)
09. Old Ones (12:47)
Total Time – 53:05
Henri Arvola – Bass
Jesse Heikkinen – Guitar, Keyboard, Percussions, Vocals
Natalie Koskinen – Vocals
Janne Markus – Guitar
Vesa Ranta – Drums
Jarmo Heikkinen – Lute (track 8)
Joonas Karjalainen – Additional Keyboards (tracks 1,4,5,7 & 9)
Mikko Kiiveri – Additional Percussions (track 4)
Ossi Oikari – SFX (track 9)
Kyösti Rautio – Additional Guitars (tracks 1,3 & 9), Additional Keyboards (tracks 1,4,6 & 9)
Record Label: Season of Mist
Country of Origin: Finland
Date of Release: 17th February 2023