1. Immortal Sorcery (3:13)
2. Sumerian Sands (The Silence) (3:12)
3. Disembodied (3:38)
The Temples of Offal (Ishnigarrab, 1991)
While aspirations toward the mythic and ancient appear in the song titles, early Absu not only lacked the adornments of sound to reflect that direction, but also eschewed the heavy metal and speed metal influences for a solid early death metal album. In the technical style that rewards double-hit drumming and abrupt tempo changes, reminding this reviewer of a hybrid between early Immolation and Sepultura yet informed by the more melodic and symbolic song structures of European bands, this Texan act created powerful riff-feasts that at times converge on the blasting styles that were just coming into vogue. While these songs remain above average for that style, the confusion of direction depletes forward momentum at time, showing how style is bonded to substance because each personality and idea communicated needs a form which quickly conveys its power. Vocals are a guttural blur and songs show their diverse influences. "Sumerian Sands" is reminiscent of Malevolent Creation or Morpheus Descends, then drops into a Possessed-inspired melodic jog in the middle, before returning to Slayer-styled fast riffing. Other songs resemble the Midwestern death metal of the early 1990s. Fortunate to have reduced their expanded horizons, Absu evolved into a more singular function and found a voice as a result.
Production: Distant and muddied, fairly flat but there is little fidelity to damage.
Review: Texan metal usually either resembles speed/heavy metal regardless of aesthetic genre influence, or sounds like Swedish death metal from the late eighties. Absu combine the two elements, sounding like a Scandinavian death metal band with a black metal ideal and some death metal adaptations in the Western hemisphere style (a good band to compare in terms of approach would be Hypocrisy, who have a similar mix of influences but a different take on the their aesthetic).
Played quickly, with a melodic line running behind some dark riffs, the music uses simple death metal riffs with melodic aspects on about every third riff. Death metal influences riff structure, which follows the standard all-phrasing little tonality idea that most of that genre embrace, but in the melodic undertones and dark cadences there is potent black metal atmosphere, something reinforced by the unearthly high-end scream laid down as a vocal track.
1. An Involution of Thorns
2. Descent to Acheron
3. An Equinox of Fathomless Disheartenment
4. The Thrice Is Greatest to Ninnigal
5. Infinite and Profane Thrones
6. Fantasizing To The Third of The Pagan Vision
7. An Evolution Of Horns
Riffing originates in distinctive pattern shuffling derived from the simple elements of power chords, although it mirrors some ideas of (oddly enough) speed metal, in the rhythmic and recursive aspects. Nothing here that Slayer has not done better, and it leaves the album somewhat unsatisfying. What leads this album to a sustained energy are the loquacious drums, which despite being sometimes overplayed contribute a jazz-based mood of suspense ending in indulgent battery that complements the esoteric feel of riffs whose transitions are not obvious until considered in retrospect.
Overall a good album in the vein of Bestial Warlust, Blasphemy, Impaled Nazarene or other simple grindcore- and death-metal-influenced black metal bands whose primary focus is rhythm and theatre, it remains at heart a death metal album with hybrid heavy metal elements that are fainter here than later Absu works. The added vocals, female and male, and the strange ceremonial nature didn't do it for me as the music sounded like the same core elements I've heard so often, slightly rearranged and dressed in a tribal format. I like this stuff for what it is but it lacks the profundity of Scandinavian releases, both in musical and aesthetic arrangement.
Production: Steely literal production captures the distant but representative sound of the band in a low volume but high vocal-fidelity environment.
Review: Epic black metal stylings encompass a heart of older style metal, with an album reminiscent of Slayer's early work in the structural creation of each song and the rhythmic metastyle used to hold these riffs together into song. Absu's gritted-teeth vocal scream and chanted recitations melt into the background swimming with strumming rhythm repeated over chord and melody shift: the evil shuddering speed of nervous deconstruction.
2. Feis Mor Tir Na N'og (Across the North Sea To Visnech)
3. Cyntefyn's Fountain
4. A Quest Into the 77th Novel
5. Our Lust for Lunar Plains (Nox Luna Inlustris)
6. The Coming of War
7. The Sun of Tiphareth
The nature of embellishment on most metal records as a chance to show off the keyboards in the name of "open-mindedness" contrasts egregiously the diligent integration of certain choice paganistic intros, clean guitar parts in the folk style, and insertion of non-guitar instruments that occurs here. A risky line was towed with this method of retro-metal in its search for a quest and a sound; underneath aesthetics it is not dissimilar to other black metal and death metal bands in the populist school of atonality, but with some careful structural work and liberally applied good taste, Absu have brought out the structural finesse within the genre.
Well-paced work muscled with rippingly fast chord groups and single-string speed strumming drives along probing structures while vigilant drumming nails out violent processions of morbidly entropic beats, keeping the obscurity high as tension over the dominant vibration of guitar. Any atmospheric or ambient effects to this music come from the flutterstrum of the guitar, which mediates the articulation of the riff under the dominant chord change, allowing a greater degree of inflection; its mesmerizing cyclic tendency hypnotizes with linear voicings of complex rhythms broken into a datastream of fast picking. With a combination of the black metal primal mysticism, death metal nihilism and the gothic theatrics of a horror show, this band not only use themselves to throw an image at the listener but make solid ripping death/black metal as well.
Production:Ashen and distant but representative.
Review: Metal traditions of three generations come forth in the third release by US black metal band Absu. Combining the vocalcentric approach of early evil heavy metal bands with the frenzied vibrations of high-speed frenzystrum bands like Slayer while integrating the riding percussion and vocals of a modern black metal band, Absu bash out communicative music that rocks along nicely while solidly iterating its simple, violent missives. Without ever peaking any new frontiers in metal or music Absu bring a closure to many of these styles, a historical fixation that at its core might be something like Mercyful Fate but might also contain the historical work of other evil metal pioneers Slayer, Morbid Angel, Bathory.
Perhaps best understanding this music comes from outside analysis of its anti-function: deconstructive but affirmative music coded in simple but pointedly nihilistic terms to suggest a return to an era of mythos when existence beyond common objects meant more than first-world feeding festivals of valueless sustenance.
1. Prelusion to Cythraul (6:48)
2. Highland Tyrant Attack (4:58)
3. A Magician's Lapis Lazuli (3:08)
4. Swords and Leather (3:07)
5. The Winter Zephyr (3:00)
6. Morbid Scream (2:10)
7. Customs of Tasseomancy (3:28)
8. Intelligence Towards The Crown (1:56)
9. Of Celtic Fire, We Are Born (8:33)
Streams of powerchords imbued with sub-rhythm in the hummingbirdwing strum roll into snare-stamped, chord-grounding positions which finalize the violent rhythm of the meme (per song, per part of song) which defines the violence apart from others. Lead guitars wail psychotic but understate their understanding of the music, leaving the pyrotechnics for almost cynical interpretations of tradition and common mentality.
Drums dart and strike outside of the cage of rigid rhythm backing these musically dogmatic phrases, but with enough internal offset to nourish counter-complexity in all subelements in awareness of all others. This percussion foils the overbearing need for guitars to return to conclusion from wandering speed riffs, but joins in chorus increasing as the song culminates. Of all the things arrayed here, the interplay of song sustenance (percussion and guitar rhythm) against song meme (vocal and main percussive rhythm) reveals how well Absu orchestrate their songs: the melodrama apparent on the cover functions in the aesthetic of their creations, songs built on the foundations of metal to play out its classical issues: mortality, destiny, determinism, and the soulless nature of the forces of goodness in comparison to the lawless, ordered, chaotic impulse from the side of darkness.
Production: Older school production captures a flat wall of sound that is clear but does not give as much room to the higher-speed modern riffing as one could hope for.
Review: Massively influenced by Slayer, this latest release from the boys from Plano continues their progression toward articulating their aggressive and death metal-based approach to the mystical genre of black metal, evolving their music both toward a more centrally structured approach in the newer atonal style and an older-school integration of fairly random riffs to a core rhythm and vocal melody. While the heritage elements of this music remain the chorus-based structuring and vocal melodic centering, the divergence is in ambient structures of high-speed dissonant variation, hiding within the center of otherwise more conventional pieces attributes of the nihilism of black metal.
Most impressively these songs are executed with higher speed and precision than previous Absu works, with more intricate lead riffing allowing them to use structures of shifting resolution to create stepped spaces through which they can enter any of the other passages in a song, allowing a cyclic recombinant phraseology that empowers the micro-riff variations the band uses to emphasize shadow variations on the primary melodic progression in each song. To support this percussion rolls through bursts of polyrhythm into gradually decomposing riffing returning to the driving energy which powers each song with tempos of massive speed and a complexity derived from growth of simple independent functions within each beat, alluding to while not aesthetically referencing the frenetic power of a computer-administrated world.
As expected from past releases, the heavy influence of older King Diamond shows in the chorus patterns and heavy metal-style riffing interlaced with the death metal on this release, as well as in the abundant flourishes of demonic vocals squirted from the drying vocal chords of a vocalist squeezed between competing rhythms of the same rubric within each piece. Overall coherence and the essence of directed but unpolarized art are much enhanced on this release, making this reviewer conclude that it is the highest point of evolution Absu have yet attained.
Production: Spacious and clear sound.
Review: Retrieving the operatic style of dark metal from a generation ago Absu bring to it turbulent speed drumming and racing tempos in wristrip of riff which facilitate the drama of a poetic nature in these songs. In the sense that the poetic can be defined as meaning a changing sequence of moods which through their position indicate resolution, this release creates poetry through not only varying technique across songs but varying mood in songs.
Phase One: Ioldanach's Pedagogy
2. Pillars of Mercy
3. A Shield with an Iron Face
5. The Cognate House of Courtly Witches Lies West of County Meath
6. She Cries the Quiet Lake
7. Yrp Llwyddawe
Phase Two: The Cythraul Klan's Scrutiny
8. From Ancient Times (Scarless Skies Burn to Ash)
9. Four Crossed Wands (Spell 181)
10. Vorag (Spell 182)
11. Bron (of the Waves)
12. Stone of Destiny (...for Magh Siecht and Ard Righ)
13. Tara (Recapitulation)
The foundation of this style is Mercyful Fate or Judas Priest at the "frenetic space of modern metal" with a foundation in self-recursive dissonant phrasing. Mostly lead riffing or standard power chords configured in streams of melody fill out the themes and dramatic interchange of moods to these long-format songs. Drums at a lightning pace instantiate fills or maintain a drive that while not based in the total nihilism of blasting approaches it in complexity and immediacy of confirmation to spatial motion. In the style of previous albums, emphatic metals and snare at the pace of a running humans in terror accompany the line drive of most phrases, and here drumming advances further by knowing when simplicity and background work balances its accompaniment more than flash. Yet its drive is central to the energy of the music and its chaos is unleashed barely within the bonds of rationality for the sake of esoteric fills.
Quoting influences ranging from Led Zeppelin to Swedish death metal, the album moves from safer territory toward the more ecclectic and ambitious pieces for which this band are known, and in those moods recreates an essential and primitive quality to human existence. Fear and passion are linked in the praise of adventure and sensuality in harrowing transfers of emotion and violence that are comforting in the context of their participation in an adventure. Like a journey, the album introduces itself in intensity and then drops to contemplative dynamics before resuming the charge for its unsettling confrontation.
That this vocalist can range from an exacting black metal shriek to a flesh and blood reproduction of the sickening screech of Ronnie James Dio, and these musicians can follow at lightning speed any schematic of fast black metal in the context of their unique take on classic metal with current technique, is secondary to the spirit with which they execute their dramatic symbolism. Epic and reflexive in its nihilistic predictions this work delivers its core in concept and music and then withdraws into fading Celtic music.
1. The Absu of Eridu & Erech (4:08)
2. Night Fire Canonization (3:19)
3. Amy (4:54)
4. Nunbarshegunu (3:05)
5. 13 Globes (4:46)
6. Of the Dead Who Never Rest in their Tombs are the Attendance of Familiar Spirits (7:03)
7. Magic(k) Square Cipher (4:48)
8. In the Name of Auebothiabathabaithobeuee (3:25)
9. Girra's Temple (2:38)
10. Those of the Void Will Re-Enter (4:56)
11. Sceptre Command (5:00)
12. Ye Uttuku Spells (4:41)
13. Twix Yesterday, the Day & the Morrow (0:57)
Absu (Candlelight, 2009)
Underneath the sterling production and the proficient musicianship, this CD is identical to everything else right now: lacking an abstract direction, it grasps at every possibly relevant idea and throws them all together. But then it must unite them, and what do we have in common as our lowest common denominator but the most basic aspects of our personalities? As a result, Absu make an album both solipsistic and exoteric. It throws together death metal riffs, black metal choruses, power metal structures dressed up in death metal technique, and exotic musicianship, but ties them together by sharing its psychology at its lowest point with ours at the same. As a result, these songs are bags of random tied together with sentiment and pandering to the foot-tapping, chorus-repeating, yammering love of the novel that is the monkey part of our brains we all have. Black metal descended into carnival music because it lost abstract direction, and this album fits the carnival music mold -- since there's no ideal for which it strives, it ventures serially into every disparate area of the genre, throwing dynamic and shocking changes our way to keep us distracted, like the soundtrack to a vaudeville or carnival show -- leaving us feeling oddly as if we have been through experiences vast and different that did not touch us at all, leaving our internal equilibrium intact and us wondering where that time went.