The latest project for Finnish veteran Jesse Heikkinen, The Abbey draws its name from Aleister Crowley’s Abbey of Thelema in Sicily. Shrouded in mystery, Crowley was evicted by Mussolini in 1923 following the death of a young disciple. Heikkinen has drawn on the dark forces for his lyrical inspiration and weaves a spellbinding album that defies genres and labels and instead focuses on the delivery of some fascinating music.
Along with co-lead vocalist Natalie Koskinen (Shape of Despair), the duo weave and spin ritualistic tales over 53 minutes of layered, heavy rock.
The Abbey – Word Of Sin (Season of Mist)
Release Date: 17 February 2023
Words: Paul Hutchings
Heikkinen has assembled quite the line-up. Former Sentenced and The Man-Eating Tree drummer Vesa Ranta is joined by guitarist Janne Markus and bassist Janne Markus for this debut album which is co-produced and mixed by Kyösti Rautio.
The opening brace on Word Of Sin are stunning. Lead track Rat King features thick, crunching riffs combined with the allure of Kiskinen’s soaring vocals and Heikkinen’s rich-throated delivery. A Thousand Dead Witches, which follows, is a frantic yet haunting song that sees The Abbey in full musical flow until the track is halted by eerie, harrowing female harmonies as the track slows to a conclusion.
Whilst Heikkinen’s idea was to form a doom band with big vocals, it’s not quite heavy enough for such a label. Instead, you get a thumpingly intense and compelling hard rock album that refuses to sit comfortably in any one genre. The epic nature of the songs, such as the expansive soundscapes of Starless, which is simply majestic in every way, combines blues, doom, Metal and seventies heavy rock.
Desert Temple sees The Abbey hit the accelerator, and one is inevitably drawn to comparisons with Ghost, albeit their Swedish counterparts veer much closer to the pop market than the Finns. A much darker feel pervades on Widow’s Will, the sombre feel of the song enhanced by Kiskinen’s vocal, which provides an ethereal touch to the doom-laden delivery.
The Abbey is one of those albums where the sum of the parts is more than any individual. Heikkinen’s sombre baritone is particularly noticeable, particularly as this is apparently his first attempt at lead vocals. “I didn’t think of it that much,” he said. “My vocals all came naturally. I still think I’m more of a guitarist than a vocalist, really. 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.”
It’s the closing duo of Old One Prequel and Old Ones that bring the band closest to their objective. Elements of ’70s progressive rock, the flourish of Big Elf and the style of Graveyard and Kadavar are all contained within a sprawling 13-minute epic that demonstrates what The Abbey is all about.
It’s a superb debut release, with the vocal interplay between Heikkinen and Koskinen at times stunning. Considering they’d never even met before, this is even more impressive.
It also appears that The Abbey could be more than a one-off piece of work. A follow-up is already planned, and Heikkinen confirms the good news. “The Abbey will most definitely be an active and serious project for me. I do hope it will turn out fun as well. I do have a feeling this band will make a long trip together.”