Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
Darkly emotional, heartfelt, and hugely atmospheric stoner doom. I think that sums up the somewhat short-lived Cleveland, Ohio-based band Abdullah rather well.
The band itself was active a little over a decade, from 1998 (1997, if you include their time using the name Flaw) to their “taking a long hiatus” announcement, along with the final live show in January of 2009.
I freaking love Abdullah, still to this very day, and I consider them to be one of the underground’s best, most incredible acts. Their music is (was) just so intense, so powerful and moving, that once you hear it you cannot forget it… ever.
There was a two-man center at the heart of Abdullah, i.e.: drummer and vocalist Jeff Shirilla and guitarist Al Seibert, the band’s founders. From there, the pair would surround themselves with a seemingly ever-changing line-up of players. They included people like bassists Jameson Walter, Ed Emilich, and Ed Stephens; drummers Jim Simonian, Kevin Lachtaw, and Josh Adkins; guitarists John Stepp, Aaron Dallison, and Chris Chiera; and singer Steven Bateman, to name a few.
Although recorded output from Abdullah began in the late 1990s, with several Demos, people really took notice of their ‘Snake Lore’ EP, released via Rage Of Achilles in 1999. That EP resonated well with those that heard it, helping to spark widespread whispers about Abdullah and eventually helping them land a deal with Meteor City Records.
Near the end of 2000, the label released the S/T full-length from Abdullah and in my humble opinion, changed the game entirely. This album melded so many differing musical styles into one monstrous, yet fluid and cohesive, monolith-like opus of heavy music. Doom, blues, grunge. stoner rock, metal… it all found a place on this outing, one that I would definitely include as one of the all-time greatest records if compiling such a list.
That album, with its Black Sabbath-meets-Soundgarden-meets-Acid Bath type aural discharges, was as progressive as it was heavy. Deep, insightful lyrics discoursed on everything from religion to spirituality and individuality, to society and social ills in general, and tackled them head-on. All reinforced by soulful vocals, chunky guitars, and a solid, impacting rhythm section, all of which makes the album supremely hard to beat, period.
For their second outing with MeteorCity, 2002’s ‘Graveyard Poetry’, Abdullah would delve into a much heavier direction in both their sound and music. Decidedly more uptempo, borderline metallic compositions permeate the album, bringing on a whole other feeling in comparison to its predecessor. That said, it is one no less profound or striking, ultimately providing an equally superb sophomore outing.
For whatever reasons, Abdullah found themselves without a label by 2003, but it did not deter their existence at the time. Over the next four years or so, they would routinely independently issue more Demos in 2003 and 2004, as well as their last, ‘Cut The Artery’, in 2007.
The band was also included on two Splits, with Nephusim (’03) and Dragonauta (’05), as well as officially issued one other EP, 2005’s ‘Worship’. However, when January 2009 arrived, Abdullah announced that they would be taking an extended hiatus to focus on other projects (such as Jeff Shirilla’s This Is Antarctica).
On January 17, 2009, Abdullah played their final live show at The Jigsaw Saloon & Stage in Parma, OH. The band’s lineup for this swansong performance was Shirilla (vocals), Alan Seibert (guitar), Aaron Dallison (guitar), Ed Stephens (bass), and Kevin Latchaw (drums).