Abigail Williams Vocalist/Guitarist Ken Sorceron Discusses "In The Absence Of Light"
Band Photo: Abigail Williams (?)
Through line-up issues and changes in sonic direction, Abigail Williams has come out stronger than ever on their second album “In The Absence Of Light.” While the band has its fair share of critics, Abigail Williams also has a loyal fan base that has followed the group from a blackened deathcore sound to symphonic black metal and to epic black metal in the style of Immortal and Bathory.
With a consistent line-up for the first time in the band's career, and a big U.S. tour coming up with Rotting Christ and Melechesh in March, things are looking bright for Abigail Williams' future. I recently had the chance to talk to vocalist/guitarist Ken Sorceron about the new album, his issues with “In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns,” the reason for a different sound on every album, and working with Aborted.
Heavytothebone2: “In The Absence Of Light” is much rawer than any of the previous albums. Why did the band switch gears from the symphonic sound to this direction?
It was just a natural progression. We’re not the type of band that has done the same thing over and over anyway. If you go back from our first demo to our first EP, it sounds completely different. Then, from our EP to “In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns,” that sounds a lot different. I figured we would keep that tradition going and try something completely different. Our next outing is going to be the same way. We’re not even going to keep what we did on the last record going. The way I see it, we get to make albums and I would rather do something different each time. You lose fans, but at least I’m still interested. I’m the one that has to play the songs. We’re the ones that have to go out there and tour off the stuff. We want to make sure we’re doing something fresh for ourselves.
Heavytothebone2: Changing the sound every album, does that make it hard to make a distinct image for yourself?
Yeah, it does, but I would say that we pretty much have no image at this point. If you look at pictures online of the band, you’ll see a shit-ton of different faces. Over the years, a lot of people came and went. There’s no definite image of the band. Even though this line-up we’ve stuck with for a while now, it would be impossible for us to try to create an image for ourselves now. There’s already preconceived notions in people’s heads about what the band sounds like from our debut material. Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do to change people’s minds on that. We’re sort of doing what we’re doing without any regards to anything like that.
Heavytothebone2: You mentioned about the line-ups changing and evolving. Do you thrive in that environment? Do you enjoy working with different musicians?
Yeah, I enjoy working with new musicians, but in the past, to be honest, the revolving line-up wasn’t a creative thing. There’s a misconception that, ‘Oh, we don’t sound like this now because all these people aren’t in the band,’ when it really had nothing to do with it. There’s only been a few people in the band who ever contributed anything musically to the band. Our first keyboard player, Ashley (Ellyllon), did, and certainly her leaving the band had an effect. I didn’t really see the point of having huge piano parts anymore if we weren’t going to have somebody to pull them off. We tried with a few different people and it didn’t work out. So that was something like, ‘All right, did that.’ How far can you really take that anyway? It’s been done pretty well in the past and it was something we went with for a while; tried it out. It was cool, but a lot of people identified the band with, ‘Oh, it’s a keyboard-driven band,’ but in my eyes, I was like, ‘I don’t think it is.’ It was just for the album.
What we have going now is all the members of the band contributing to the writing, which has never been the case in the past. It was always just two of us. Me and our first keyboard player Ashley and working with different drummers. That’s how it used to work. Now, it’s everybody working on the material together. It’s definitely more of a band now. It took a while to find people that would stick around. We were touring so consecutively that every time someone dropped out or we had to get rid of someone, for the personality or performance, we had to tour a few days right after that. So instead of canceling tours, we just kept getting new people quick before we knew who they were. It was just a mess. Looking back, we should have just taken a break and figured it out. With this current line-up, we had a little bit of time to figure out the right people.
Heavytothebone2: When the first album, you wrote a lot of that music yourself. Going from that to collaborating with people and having more of a band effort, do you think the songwriting came out better that way or do you think you work better by yourself?
For certain songs, I like to work by myself, but I like making music with other people. It’s not anything new for me. Before I did this band, I was always playing with other people. I play in a few other bands and it’s all joint collaboration. It just sort of happened as a necessity at first. Now sometimes, I’ll have a song I wrote myself, but most of the time, we have songs we all chipped in on. On the last record, there were still a few songs I had wrote myself that were just dated back before we had everything in place, before we jammed as a band. We had those songs still, but a few of the best songs were the ones we all worked on together.
Heavytothebone2: Did you feel more comfortable with this direction than the symphonic one?
I think it was just something that we wanted to do. Basically, we didn’t really plan anything out. We booked studio time, went into the studio with our instruments, and went, ‘All right, what are we going to do?’ We had a month to create a record. We didn’t have the material written. Once it started taking shape, we were being influenced by what we had already had started creating. We had a collective taste. It’s not like we sat down and said, ‘Oh, let’s make the band like this and it’s going to be like this from now on.’ We all enjoyed stuff like this and it seems we’re writing well in that style, so let’s that be the album. If we sat down and wrote the album again, it probably wouldn’t happen because we’ve already gotten it out of our systems. It’s traditional in a sense that we didn’t explore too far out of the boundaries of second-wave Norwegian-style black metal, but I would say we’re most comfortable with the stuff that we’re writing right now. It’s going beyond black metal, I would say, into whatever we feel like it being.
Heavytothebone2: Can you elaborate a little bit about the new material you guys are writing?
Within the last couple of months, we wrote over an album’s worth of material, maybe an album and a half. We plan on recording this month maybe an EP’s worth of stuff. We don’t know what we are doing yet because we have not gotten an okay from our label to record, so we’re actually going to just have to do it on our own budget. If we can, we’ll probably release it ourselves, if they let us. All the songs are getting a lot longer; we got like 14 minute songs going on, stuff like that. It’s a bit more of a post-black metal direction. There’s still bits and pieces of what we were doing. Even more so, there’s no symphonic elements in this new material. There’s a lot of melody and layers coming from the guitars.
Heavytothebone2: Are you comfortable being able to push lengths like that without using symphonic elements?
Like I said, everything we’re doing is just coming very natural. If a song ends up being 12 to 14 minutes, it’s because we successfully created an atmosphere within the song we want. With these songs, we would prefer each song to stand on its own. You can listen to a song and it’s almost like listening to an album; a lot of stuff going on in one song.
Heavytothebone2: What did you learn from your experience working on “In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns” that helped you with the recording and writing process “In The Absence Of Light”?
Probably to be more spontaneous with stuff. The whole recording of “In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns” was very drawn-out and it became almost sort of a task. It almost became a little bit miserable making it. It was recorded in four different states, two different countries, and it just became a huge pain in the ass getting it done. When you sit on material that long, you start second-guessing every little part. Then when it came time to mix it, we didn’t have very much time and we were on tour at the time. I remember when the first mix came to us, it didn’t sound the way I wanted it to sound, but we had to turn it because we were already past the deadline a bunch of times. It ended up coming out not the way that I wanted it to come out at all.
Heavytothebone2: How did you want it to come out?
Sonically, it didn’t sound like the way that we would sound live. It sounded a little too polished. The keyboards were way too loud, way in-your-face. We really didn’t have time to fix it. The vocals sounded really upfront and dry. To be honest, it didn’t even sound like me. I don’t even know how that happened. If you listen to the EP and you listen to “In The Absence Of Light,” “In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns” doesn’t sound like either of those vocally. It’s a lot of things. It was a good learning experience and that’s exactly what it was. It did pretty well. There were people that liked it. I like the songs of course, but I just wish it could have came out different.
When we went to do “In The Absence Of Light,” we made sure we gave ourselves a time limit of one month and it had to be written and recorded. We just kept the vibe going. You lose the vibe when you take too much time. You lose the vibe you originally set out for. You don’t even know what the vibe is anymore after you’ve been working on it for six or seven months. When it was time to mix, Peter Tägtgren sent us the first mix and literally, we were like, ‘Yeah, that sounds pretty good. Just change two minute things,’ and we were done. It came together pretty easy. I just prefer to do records like that; more painless.
Heavytothebone2: Do you see future albums being done under short recording times?
Yeah. We’re taking a whole new approach even. We’re probably going to take even less time for future recordings. We’re getting quicker knowing what we’re doing. This will be the second album in a row with the same people, which has never happened before. I think that will help.
Heavytothebone2: Do you think that this current line-up has longevity? Do you see yourself recording not just this album, but a few more down the line?
We could sit around and write albums all year, if they would let us put them out. Unfortunately, the way these things work, we’re only allowed to do one a year. We literally just hang out and write shit. That’s all we do. It’s coming out pretty cool. A lot of creativity in this line-up, so I’m happy about that.
Heavytothebone2: The band is going on tour with Rotting Christ in March. How did the band land that tour?
It’s really simple. Our booking agent asked us. There’s no real crazy story there. Generally, we get asked and we say yes.
Heavytothebone2: Are you excited about this tour?
Yeah, I think it will be really cool. Heard the Rotting Christ dudes are really cool and I’ve been into Melechesh for a while, so I think it’s going to be cool to watch them every night. Lecherous Nocturne is on the tour and we just did a tour with them a few months ago. It’s always good to go back out with friends. We definitely have our best times on tour; just a lot of hanging out.
Heavytothebone2: Do you prefer being on the road or in the studio?
I prefer to be on the road. Being in the studio is cool, but cooler than being in the studio is having it done. The end result is cooler than actually doing it. On tour, it’s usually always fun. I tour with a few different bands. I play guitar in Aborted as well. I have another band called Bro Jovi I do shows with. I’ve done session touring guitar for other bands, like System Divide on Metal Blade, so I’m always trying to tour and so do the other dudes in the band. Our drummer also plays in Aborted and Ian (Jekelis) played with God Dethroned for a while as a touring guitar player. If we’re not on tour, we’re trying to tour with other bands so we can be on the road doing something.
Heavytothebone2: Have you guys talked about the setlist for the tour? What are you excited about playing?
We’ve only been playing songs off “In The Absence Of Light” and since we’re a support band, we’ll probably just play four songs. That’s all we really have time for, with the lengths of the songs. Maybe we’ll play one of our new songs that’s not on anything yet. I think that might be cool to give people a sneak preview of what we’re working on. Typically, when we’ve been doing headlining shows, we were just playing “In The Absence Of Light” all the way through, from start to finish, then as an encore sometimes, we’ll play a couple songs off of “In The Shadow Of A Thousand Suns.”
Heavytothebone2: Do you find it hard to recreate “In The Shadows Of A Thousand Suns” songs with the current line-up?
No, not at all. That’s why they got in the band in the first place. We were playing those songs when they joined the band. We’re well-versed in that material.
Heavytothebone2: How is 2011 looking for Abigail Williams? Any big goals in mind?
We’re going to hit Europe after the Rotting Christ tour and then we’re going to stay in Europe all summer. We’re going to try to tour Europe again in the fall while we’re still out there. We’re going to try to do all the festivals and stuff like that for the summer in Europe. We’re also just going to do some backpacking through Europe; not band shit really, but it is because we’re going to be together doing this stuff. We’re going to check out crop circles in England this summer, shit like that. After that, we’ll probably just record. We won’t have an album out this year, I know that. That opportunity is passing because of political things. It’s not our choice. We’re definitely going to try to put out a split with another band or an EP or 7’’. We want to put out something. We’re going to record that material this month.
Heavytothebone2: If you had it your way, would you release a new album this year?
Definitely, but it doesn’t look like it’s happening.
Heavytothebone2: You are also involved with Aborted. The band is working on new material, correct? How’s that coming out?
It’s coming really good, actually. We’re going to record that in April. We’re going to Denmark to record with Tue Madsen. We work over the Internet. Basically, we just send the riffs over to each other and work with somewhat of the same gear, so we can put our ideas together. We’ll usually just fly around and meet up to work on stuff. It’s really hard because we have members living in Europe, the U.S, and Israel. It’s really just scattered.
Heavytothebone2: What’s the new material sounding like?
It sounds like Aborted, but...of course everybody says this, it’s a little heavier. It’s definitely faster and has a new element to it as far as technicality and playing-wise, it’s stepped up a notch. It sounds like a blend between “Engineering The Dead,” “Goremageddon” and “The Archaic Abattoir,” but then with some new stuff we’re doing mixed in. Those are our favorite records from the band, so we focused on that sort of material. I’m pretty excited about it. I think it’s going to come out really good.
Heavytothebone2: Are you going to juggle both bands, Abigail Williams and Aborted, or spend time with one over the other and switch off? Are you touring with Aborted once the album is done?
Yeah, right after we’re done with the album, we’re doing tour dates in Europe. That’s the other thing; since I’m already going to be out there with Abigail, and since we have the same drummer in Abigail and Aborted, us being out there all summer, we can do festivals with both bands. It’s a juggle, but it’s doable.
Heavytothebone2: If you could tour with one band, past or present that you’ve never toured with, who would it be and why?
Not that they are our genre or anything, but I think it would be cool to tour with fucking Pantera back in the day. Just watching “Vulgar Video” and shit; that shit looked like fun (laughs). All of us realize that we are influenced by those videos and inspired us to make metal, and to want to tour. So we have our moments where we try to live up, but we can’t quite come to that level of destruction, but we try.
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