Review : AHAB – Live Prey

Review : AHAB – Live Prey

Photo credits: Stefan Raduta – Live at Roadburn 2017

Thanks to SKULL NEWS, I can write about my favorite bands. And thanks to NAPALM RECORDS, I can write something about the titans of Funeral Doom: AHAB. They are my favorite doom band by far, so I must say I’m really happy about this.
They have just released Live Prey, on June 26th, the first live album of their career. Founded in 2004, the band has released in 2006 what to me is a classic funeral doom album: The Call of the Wretched Sea. Live Prey is a live rendition of songs from that album, recorded at their show at Death Row Fest 2017 in Jena, Germany.

For those new to the band, the guys behind AHAB use famous literary sources and adapt them to music. In the case of The Call of the Wretched Sea, as its cover implies with its giant sperm whale knocking down boats in the open sea, the literary material at the origin of the album is Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville. For those who have read that masterpiece, it should not come as a surprise since the band’s name is AHAB. That’s the name of the maniac Captain of the Pequod, the whaling boat on which the events of the novel occur.
The artwork of Live Prey is a new take on that same scene, with another drawing style, all black and white, in which the Pequod stands bigger in the cover, and in which the whale seems to be at a disadvantage (after more than 15 years of hunting, that’s understandable).

So, what is this all about? Why record a live album out of old songs? Simple, Moby-Dick is the greatest American Romantic epic in the history of literature (my apologies, it also happens to be my favorite book, enough to have written and read extensively about it during my studies). Moby-Dick tells the story of Ishmael, a mariner who wishes to get back to sea, on a whaling voyage. He encounters a harpooner named Queequeg, and both get enlisted in the Pequod‘s crew. Little did they now that the Captain of the ship was a complete madman who would go to every sacrifice to get his vengeance upon the white whale who has ripped his leg off of his body.

It is a novel that is artistically situated near the end of the American Romantic movement. There is, in nature and more particularly in the sea, something sublime which transpires throughout the book. This sublime, in its older meaning, means both something beautiful and massively threatening. The sublime is dangerous. Yet it attracts all humans alike to the ocean.
The sea is both a cornucopia for mariners and also an entity very much unknown, cold and deep, from which some never return, both physically and spiritually. The sea and the sailors have their gods and demons, and the greatest divinity in Moby-Dick is the white whale of the same name. A white as divine as it is terrific (there’s a whole chapter devoted to that color in the novel, for those interested).

Why am I talking so much about this book? The idea is to explain that all its Romantic aspects fit perfectly well with the crushing and deep sound of funeral doom metal. AHAB have found the recipe for success by enchanting listeners with the sea through so sombre a music. That novel is full of despair, and as you may know, it does not end well. The band expresses the sound of this despair, mainly through the point of view of Captain Ahab.

Is there a difference between the original record and this live rendition? My guess is that you can, at this point, listen to an extract, with the clip for “Old Thunder“, to get an idea for yourself, then continue reading:

There are a few minor changes, which I will explain right now. The sound of the band has matured over the years, and their songs have evolved with them, they are slightly different from the original version. Daniel Droste, singer/guitarist, has improved his clean vocals over the releases and uses live his full capabilities, which can be heard in Live Prey. The ambient sounds that often introduce or close songs are of better quality now than in the original record, they feel more professional, and more natural as well.

As it is impossible I guess to play everything from a long album and record everything, the tracklist has slightly changed. The song “The Sermon” was lost as well as the interlude “Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales“. The track “The Hunt“, has been moved and now closes the live album. It is also a few minutes longer, clocking now at nearly 17 minutes, while it was only 11 minutes long in the original recording. That can be easily explained, as this song is AHAB‘s magnum opus, always played live and a fan favorite. It is portraying the last chapters of the novel, “The Chase”, in which the crew finally attempts to kill the whale. It is one of the most soul-crushing texts I’ve ever read, and so AHAB uses it to crush the audience under their waves.

Here is the tracklist of Live Prey:

1. Below the Sun
2. The Pacific
3. Old Thunder
4. Ahab’s Oath
5. The Hunt

Even with one song less, Live Prey is nearly as long as the original, only four minutes shorter. While I would like to hear every AHAB song live, it is not that big a deal (come play near me, okay? I’ve never had the chance to see you live yet). Such a record should be in the collection of any AHAB fan and will certainly be of interest to any lover of good doom music.

Those familiar with the band know what to expect, but I believe these live songs are worth it. I’m not that used to live records, to be honest, but this one is definitely amazing, because it shows how the band has grown and how the songs themselves have grown in the hands of these talented musicians.

Their more recent record, The Boats of the Glen Carrig, was released in 2015 via NAPALM RECORDS. It’s been a while already, and we hope that we will soon be blessed with a new album. It has already been confirmed that the new album is in the works, and the novel with which they will work is none other than 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. As a Frenchman, I’m pleased, being a great fan of Jules Verne, this book has been a favorite of mine since my childhood. I’ve been secretly hoping for this specific adaptation. So, let’s be patient, it will come for those who wait!

AHAB on Facebook
AHAB‘s website
AHAB‘s Bigcartel store
AHAB on Bandcamp
AHAB on Instagram
NAPALM RECORDS‘ online shop

That’s it for today, see you soon on Skull News for more oceanic stuff and more metal! While you wait, purchase Live Prey, out now, either on the band’s store or on NAPALM RECORDS!


I love black metal, and I love fish. That may seem unrelated to music, but you may sooner or later understand that there's a link between the two. I will write on Skull News review articles and other stuff, I hope you'll enjoy them. And by the way, I'm French !

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