CANDLELIGHT // 2011 // Last time I checked there was still a month or so until Absu’s “Abzu” hits the shelves but already the reviews are pouring into the wild sea we know as the Internet. Realizing the need for instant reaction this gem was outsourced in a heartbeat to one of Iceland’s encyclopedias of all things Absu and Nikki Sixx; Atli Jarl Martin, the bass slayer of Atrum. Atli is a veteran of all things extreme Metal and some say he’s responsible for the brief glory ride Death Metal experienced in Iceland back in 1991 and 1992. Enjoy the Highland Tyrant Attack of Atli Jarl…
Two years ago saw the return of the stalwart Texan black thrashers Absu, when they released their first album in eight years. With a completely new horde in the frontlines, and a vast ocean of material written between the years 2001-2008, it was no mean feat for mainman Proscriptor McGovern to create something worthy of the bands legacy and although the prospect gathered great anticipation amongst its followers, there was also a treacherous undercurrent of doubt that flowed beneath the sense of jubilation. Out of this abyss emerged “Absu”, an aptly titled album and even more impressively, the first piece of three titled “Abyssic Trinity”. Although the album differs greatly to their earlier works, being built on a more progressive death metal foundation, it did gather up some mixed reviews, but the majority of them very positive. Despite their new approach in both sound and music presented on the album, it is still undeniably Absu, and for me, absolutely spectacular!
When the grapevine reported that the follow-up to “Absu” was to emerge in the latter part of 2011, along with the fact that the band had changed it’s frontline completely since the recording of the album took place, with bass guitarist / backing vocalist Ezezu joining the fold shortly after the completion of the album in 2008 and guitarist Vis Crom joining in 2009, my thoughts went almost immediately to what concoction we’d be presented with this time around. The era of “Abzu” is now upon us and never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted the sense of awe and amazement it has conjured upon me.
Right from the opening notes of the album and the ever so familiar, hallmark shriek of Proscriptor, I was taken aback by the unrelenting aggression of the sound and songwriting as “Earth Ripper”, one of the greatest beginnings of any album I’ve heard in aeons, which takes the listener on a violent rollercoaster ride of very nostalgic and classic, almost the trademark Absu kind of metal in the vein of “The Third Storm of Cythraul” and “Tara” only this time around with a much more black metal oriented approach. Long time fans and followers of the band need not ponder over whether it presents us with some mindless blast feast, but for those who are dabblers in the aural magick of Absu, you need not worry for a second about that, because it’s as complex and progressive as it is fast.
Off the bat, the first thing that confiscated my attention was the phenomenal guitar work of Vis Crom as he plows through some of the most vicious black metal chords and devastatingly cool staccato riffing I’ve heard. The sound of the guitars is so crisp and clear that every single nuance is easily audible, even in the most blistering torrents put forth by the rhythm section. And while on the subject of guitars, it was a pleasant revelation that Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen handles all solos on the album, a further collaboration from the last album where he lent his talents to a couple of songs. On “Abzu”, he delivers solos that make Kerry King sound like an amateur as he delves into purely thrash metal oriented, short and cacophonous creations ever so fitting to the violence at hand.
As I have gathered, Vis Crom and Ezuzu are responsible for all songwriting on the album, which perhaps explains the vast difference between it and it’s predecessor, but it would be unfair to state that this is the “Return of Absu” as I’ve read in a couple of reviews already. These two new members are contributing fresh and invigorating musical direction for the band and though I don’t blame anyone for picking this up as a nod to the legacy of Absu, there are so many factors in it that are purely additions to an ever growing catalog of unique releases. Speaking of which, and one of the more impressive new aspects are the dual vocal assaults of Proscriptor and Ezezu. Combined, they manage to elevate perfectly the aggression of the music. The dry, rasping, black metal vocals of both are perfectly arranged and mixed, in a clear, natural sounding way so that they flow incredibly well with the music. Too bad that the promo didn’t include the lyrics, but that makes my anticipation for the release date even greater.
As all extreme metal enthusiasts should damn well know by now, there’s one factor of Absu that excels above everything else and that is the, for a lack of a better word, machine, that is Proscriptor McGovern. In the extreme metal genre, the drummers are taking over as the bands superstars instead of the guitarists of the heavy metal era, and many of them deservedly so, as the music has gotten to such extremes in both speed and technicality. For Absu however, this has always been a constant in their career, something that is absolutely guaranteed. There are no drummers in the world that could match the downright outrageous passages that Proscriptor manages to conjure up, whether it’s in terms of technicality or speed. On “Abzu”, there are no words to describe his performance in songs like “Circles Of The Oath”, in my opinion one of the bands most violent songs ever, and furthermore strengthened in the lightning fast “Skrying In The Spirit Vision” and “Ontologically, it Became Time & Space”. But his talents extend to all things metal, driving the teutonic-like thrash metal vibe of “Earth Ripper”, the thunderous, mid-tempo bashing in “Abraxas Connexus” and ultimately the vast complexity of Absu’s longest track to-date, “Songs For Ea”, a 14 minute, six chapter conjuration that incorporates a plethora of styles and tempo into one epic finale.
Even though at first glance, the 36 minute playing time seemed a bit short in my opinion, the album made up for that for being undeniably among their finest releases, but also considering the almost exhausting maelstrom of violence presented in it’s six tracks, I don’t think that a couple of songs more would have brought it to further hights. Set to conclude the “Abyssic Trinity” in 2013, with the final piece, tentatively titled “Apsu”, one can only ponder where the magick of Absu takes us from here. Album of the year 2011. Period.