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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.
Originally written for Currents.
Long described as a black-thrash hybrid, I don't believe that manages to fully describe what Absu are all about, particularly with their more recent work. Sure, the rapidfire pace of a band like Slayer makes for a decent comparison when speaking of the band's intensity and aggression, yet it doesn't take into account the progressive complexity Absu brings to the table. The second in a prospective trilogy of like-titled albums, "Abzu" finds a perfect balance between speed and sophistication.
"Abzu" gets it right from square one. Taking less than three seconds to hit full-force, a martial drum roll and King Diamond-esque shriek are all it takes to beckon in the fury of the album's opening track, "Earth Ripper". For a three-piece, the band sounds incredibly vast. This is largely in thanks due to their respective virtuosities as musicians. Needless to say, frontman Proscriptor McGovern is one of the most gifted drummers in all of metal, and he doesn't disappoint here. A good word to describe his performance on "Abzu" might be 'busy'. The rhythm patterns are constantly shifting, and- paired with the unrelenting speed- this will pass the inattentive listener as indecipherable chaos. Vis Crom's guitarwork manages to keep up with Proscriptor, which is a feat in its own right. On top of some very memorable riffs played within thrash convention, Vis will often layer his central guitar with a brighter-sounding secondary guitar. Surprisingly, this brighter guitar sounds close to Mastodon guitarist Brett Hinds' signature tone. More surprisingly still, it compliments the otherwise aggressive sound. Although it's not surprising given the band's roots in black and thrash metal, Ezezu's basswork is given a disproportionately small amount of exposure in the sound, and given the skill of the other two, this feels a bit of a lost opportunity. On the other hand, Ezezu pairs up with Proscriptor on vocal duties, which round off the sound with a fitting rasp. Barring the outrageous falsetto that opens the record, the vocals generally keep within black metal canon. The lyrics are another matter, however. Taking the 'occult' theme to heart, there is esoteric terminology aplenty here. I think it will past most listeners as needlessly pedantic, although there has certainly been thought put into the use of words.
On top of that aforementioned black-thrash style, Absu bring a strong sense of progressive rock to their sound. Unlike the case of Opeth or Enslaved however, it is never overt enough to besmirch their aggression. A psychedelic twang can be heard underneath the colossal riffs of "Circles of the Oath", before the composition devolves into a short, but effective acoustic interlude. Absu may occasionally diverge from the intense speed, but the sabbaticals are kept largely brief and innocuous. The only time when listeners will be subject to a longer break from the thrashy carnage is during the progressive epic "A Song for Ea", a near-fifteen minute opus that recalls the dissonant strain of Deathspell Omega. After some of the album's most intense and engaging passages, the quiet guitars return, bringing about a haunting atmosphere that I might only compare to the sort of sophisticated sense of dread you find in mob movies. Before the album is through, Absu blast the listener with their most blackened slew of carnage, a sort of encore that manages to take the sound to even more aggressive levels.
At little over half an hour in length, "Abzu" leaves a listener wanting more. After a two year wait, I can see why some would be disappointed to receive something dwarfed by the size of most metal albums nowadays. Of course, with the speed and intensity these guys drive throughout the album, it may have been a good choice to leave things as they are. It's a masterful album, and I cannot wait to hear what the third installment will sound like.
I avoid as much as possible to use the “legendary” epithet. Overused term, attributed to countless bands, it was gutted by dint of being led astray. But how would we call Absu then? American black metal pioneer (also known as “United States black metal” or USBM), founded in the early 1990s, this group is a modern dark metal pillar, whose influence on myriad of other formations is undeniable. Particularly active during the second half of the 1990s, this trio led by Proscriptor McGovern experienced a hiatus between 2001 and 2009, a period being used to develop other projects. The excellent self-titled album released in 2009, their fifth only, marks the forefront return of the band. Ambitious, both musically and lyrically, this first album in eight years showed that these Texans’ black thrash had not aged. Now, however, is arriving Abzu, their highly anticipated new album (second of a trilogy which will conclude with Apzu, whose release date is unknown).
The scream launched at the start of Earth Ripper immediately reveals the direction taken by this album: it will be old school! As such, we could swear it belongs to a 1990s thrash metal compilation. It shows all knowledge and effectiveness of a band that has over twenty years of malfeasance on the clock. It goes fast and it hits hard! It continues with Circles of the Oath and a syncopated rhythm, which sometimes leaves room for short and surprising clear guitar passages. Thrash metal class continues with Abraxas Connexus, which gets slower half-way but leads gradually to a very successful new rhythmic sequence. Skrying in the Spirit Vision, however, is the weakest song on the album. Its first two minutes are too predictable and pace is a bit circular and repetitive. It Became Time & Space is a proper song, but its purpose is clearly to introduce the final chapter of the album, A Song for Ea, which is composed of no fewer than six sections, as many small parts that all come together to form a single song. Note the magnificent passage called The Sound Waters – The Denizen, which intersects classical guitar, tubular and keyboard. It gives a beautiful moment of poetry, unexpected in such a monument of heavy metal.
Group’s mysticism and its continued interest in magic and mythology, are here beautifully supported by a damn effective song writing. Absu members (well, the only member left from the 90’s, as a matter of fact) were able to dig into their repertoire in order to extract what makes its strength and hit the bull’s eye with this new album. Although short (just over 36 minutes) Abzu is a great achievement, a milestone in the history of a… legendary band! 8/10
Originally written for Métal Obscur.
Absu is a Texas blackened thrash metal band that began back in 1990. Lyrically and thematically, their albums are grouped together in distinct cycles based on myth and magic. Abzu is the second album in a planned trilogy.
This is my first experience with the band, but I don't feel like I've missed anything by jumping in midstream. The music is something I can immediately grasp. It sounds like a combination of Skeletonwitch and Melechesh, although to be fair Absu has been around longer than either of them.
The riffs are tight and fast, and have a distinct Middle Eastern flavor. The band is unusual in that their drummer is also their lead vocalist, but neither element suffers one bit from the demanding dual roles. The vocals tend toward blackened rasping, but there are a few King Diamond style falsetto shrieks to spice things up. I can't say the bass stood out to me at any point.
The album comes on very strong. It moves at a frantic pace and demands your attention. Even the acoustic outro of "Circles of the Oath" seems aggressive. It is dynamic, though, with the slightly slower "Abraxus Connexus" changing things up, along with the highly varied six-part suite that closes things out.
The Verdict: Abzu is recommended for fans of Skeletonwitch and Melechesh. In fact, it outshines the most recent records from either of those bands.
originally written for http://fullmetalattorney.blogspot.com/
Absu took their damn sweet time releasing their eponymous opus back in 2009, but the ancient deity refused to make its followers wait another eight years for new material, thankfully. The second album of another conceptual cycle (about occultism) dubs itself “Abzu,” another collection of ravenous black metal embracing the same lyrical identities its opening chapter preached back in 2009. In terms of musicality, it is an Absu album: harsh and heavy, bestial and bloody. As a fan of the band, I have no quarrel with this offering, but it clearly does not match nor represent the sheer magic of the group’s previous efforts, instead taking the role of an acceptable release rather than a legendary one. Overall, “Abzu” fundamentally represents the legacy and longevity of Absu through its themes of occultism and slicing black/thrash metal, although there are intervals of lacking material and downright boring numbers that are uncharacteristic of this majestic faction.
Writing an album so quickly after such a previous lapse must have been burdensome upon the minds and hearts of Proscriptor and his legions, yet still the Absu machine rolls onward. The six tracks follow a neat nexus connecting the unrelenting fury of black metal and the frenzied vibe of apocalyptic doom often riding on the hide of vehement thrash, much like Absu’s self-titled record. There are not many differences among the testaments, and many will notice that Absu’s originality may be running dry, but hey, it still kicks ass. The band has no problem taking the listener on an intergalactic rodeo of blackened destruction that opens vortexes between worlds with absurdly hostile numbers like “Earth Ripper” or the festival of maniacal violence that is “Abraxas Connexus.” So yea, some things thankfully never change. The only real dud is “Ontologically, it Became Time and Space,” which falls perfectly into a chameleonic void of nothingness, looking like something the average black/thrash band could write and use as filler. Otherwise, you know what you’re getting yourself into, and please note Absu is not in the mercy business.
The main attraction is, of course, “A Song for Ea.” Of the thirty-six minutes that is “Abzu,” nearly fifteen find refuge in what is the longest song in Absu’s gallery of art, taking the listener on a journey through the sands and waters of black/thrash metal layered deep in the lyrical chasms of occult nightmares. Sound cool? Well, prepare for some disappointment: it really isn’t. Stylistically speaking, “A Song for Ea” accurately represents the core philosophies of “Abzu” with an extra side of progressive elements placed suitably between the many riffs and transitions occupying what many will consider Absu’s prime epic; of course, fine moments are plentiful and blooming as one might expect. Still, I’m kind of left feeling like it lacks the degree of attractiveness long tracks need, and it tends to carry its excess baggage carelessly once in a while.
However, experts are not needed to list the obvious flaws and pains of this otherworldly song; the transitions, for instance, are glued together so poorly it almost sounds like six or seven tracks pieced together at random, an unacceptable feat coming a band that formerly penned a number of epics with elegance and prose. Most of the remaining tracks range from acceptable to downright fantastic, so Absu still walks away with another winner under their belts, albeit one that shows signs of mild deterioration. Maybe “Abzu” would obtain a closer place in my heart if they would’ve cut out one of the questionable numbers or just made the release a smidge shorter instead of forcing anthems. I mean, an EP wouldn’t hurt that much, right guys?
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
I've always loved Absu. To me, Absu was a breakaway band from the convoluted primordial and (more or less pathetic) oversaturated flux of so many awful black metal bands out there. Absu had balls. They never took themselves too seriously with all their pretentiousness. They were different and stood out from the crowd with their tenacity fueled by Proscriptor's ungodly showmanship and talent. Proscriptor was made to be a showman.
I was very disappointed in the last Absu album. Gone were the catchy thrashing riffs from Equitant. Gone were the balls to the wall tenacity. It was more or less a generic offering in my mind, a disposable showcase of a newly formed band that lacked cohesion. While this album is similar in some respects to the former, I believe Absu have taken a step forward with this album and have showed some positive progression. They're taking cues from modern black metal bands like Death Spell Omega and trying to mix them with catchy thrashing riffs. This works in Absu's favor some of the time. What else could capture the awe inspiring gaze of the celestial abyss and power of the previous deities of Sumerian worship than avant-garde black metal? What could be less structured and organic to capture something that goes beyond comprehension? Absu try to capture this organic quality and mix it with thrashing memorable riffs.
While this seems like it would be something to remember, something to enjoy, something to stand out in a crowd of an oversaturated genre that I'm sure even someone's grandmother enjoys at this point, it's fairly lackluster in the end because other bands have done it to a much further extent already. Other bands have taken both extremes (Absu itself in its prime for thrashing black metal and DSOM for organic avant-garde metal). I still love Absu. I do enjoy this album. But as a whole this album still leaves something desperately to be desired. I like this album much more than the previous album, but there just isn't enough cohesion with the aesthetic approach Absu is trying to create and it just comes across as flat to me.
I miss thrashing, balls to the walls Absu. Equitant is sorely missed.
Only two years after the band's very strong self titled album, the American extreme metal legends come back with a shorter record called "Abzu" that reminds a lot of the previous output. The cover artwork is as great, the album and song title structures are very similar and the music is also great on both releases.
As this record is in fact quite short I think it will make sense to briefly talk about each of the six tracks to give you a good impression of this little gem.
The record opens with a big band which is the amazing speed thrash metal killer "Earth Ripper" that employs some unusual and addicting siren sounds in the beginning. This little song has more changes in style and diversity than other band put in entire records and it still all fits well together. There is no better way to open an album and the track gets to the point in not even four minutes.
"Circles Of The Oath" takes no prisoners and starts as a speedy death metal track but switches quickly to smoother doom metal parts just to change back to its original style and so on. This duality is surprising and quite addicting and one never gets tired of discovering new elements within the sound of this song.
"Abraxas Connexus" has more of an old school vibe and sounds like a mixture of Venom and Slayer in their best years to me. What makes this song stand out once again are the brilliant and almost progressive changes of style. The riffs are melodic and memorable, the bass is galloping around, the drum patterns never cease to change and the vocals are dark and energizing. One highlight follows another on this record.
"Skrying In The Spirit Vision" is another fast dark extreme metal hammer with subtle changes of rhythm, pace and style. The song has some great short guitar solos, pitiless mosh parts and thrashier passages towards the end. What I miss in here is a little atmospheric break and a more profound structure and that's why this track is still pretty good but less addicting as the first three ones.
"Ontologically, It Became Time And Space" is another fast paced track but has some more atmospheric riffs than the previous song. The breaks are great and help a lot to make this song stand out. The great drum patterns in the ending also rate this track up.
"A Song For Ea" is by far the longest song on the release and divided into six parts. The track starts with some atmospheric doom parts just like an epic extreme metal track should do but the band switches maybe a little bit too fast to a fast paced blackened thrash metal passage. In fact this track resumes the rest of the album pretty well. Slower doom passages switch too pitiless death or thrash parts and some atmospheric interludes and breaks glue the whole thing together. Sometimes, the transitions are a little bit too fast and that's where the band still could improve from an atmospheric, lyrical and intellectual point of view. This means that Absu could even get better than this and as this record is slightly better than the last output, I see a positive tendency in here and wait for more things to come. Concerning this epic song, it's a great one but not the expected masterpiece that surpasses the rest. I would chronologically cite the first three tracks as the best one son the album.
In the end, this record should please to any fan of extreme metal music and could also please to open minded fans of thrash or progressive metal. Absu deliver a short but very sweet record and I could have listened to another album of forty minutes or so with such a high quality. Within the next days, the record will surely rotate a lot of times in my stereo system and I will push the replay button a couple of times. Be sure to not miss this record as Absu seem to be stronger than ever after a career that now lasts for more than twenty years.
Absu were always one of the best bands that incorporated black metal elements to come out of North America, in my opinion. It’s been a few years since “Absu” was released in 2009, and now we’ve got an album with a similar title; “Abzu”. I was excited when the release date was announced, and I was really looking forward to it. I pre-ordered it as soon as it was made available.
The record is a really catchy and memorable slab of thrashy black metal. It’s got tons of energy and a great, hateful and angry attitude that is not your typical hatred-filled euro black metal. As suggested by the artwork, and as heard on the band’s previous releases over the years, the lyrics deal with mythological themes and they give the record a strong mysterious and occult feeling. The guitars are really fast and cut through you like razor-sharp blades. The playing is really tight and precise. I can’t hear the bass, but it’s not really a problem in this particular type of music. Occasional bursts of acoustic guitar passages can be found many times on this record. The drum work is killer and really aggressive. The vocals are sung in a raspy black metal style but with a thrashy edge. They sound really cool nevertheless! You can actually understand the lyrics without the booklet and that’s a plus!
The production is great; exactly what the music needed to feel perfect! It sounds raw, yet polished, if that makes any sense at all. What I mean, is that it has a raw feel, while everything is still pretty clear and enjoyable. The music is really complimented by the amazing production values. In case you were wondering what’s going on with the last track of the record, in regards with its song length, I’ll tell you what’s going on. It’s basically six different songs put together into one. My assumption is that they are grouped because they have a really similar lyrical content and they are sort of connected by that. In short the record is not lengthy at all, so it’s a short and sweet one. It’s full of energy and the performances are all passionate, with the exception of the bassist who is not audible at all. The whole thing is straight forward and aggressive, fast thrash/black metal with an occasional death metal feel.
Absu have succeeded in keeping their legacy and offering another blistering release for all the dedicated headbangers out there. Grab some beers and enjoy this work of chaos!
Absu is fantastic. I have listened to them for many years. I have always liked their early stuff, even their death metal demos and their really weird black metal. I have never said bad things about them, and it took a lot of effort to think of the things to say about this album, both good and bad, and the latter seemed to come easier then the former. I think I was mostly disappointed because of the wait. Absu and Abzu are supposed to be two parts of the same story, and especially since they got a new member right after the release of Absu, this album should have really came late. Seriously though, I was thoroughly discouraged when I heard the first track...and there is just nothing I could say...
Except at how I was so pissed that the rest of the record followed the same bullshit as the annoying first track. To be honest, this album was utter chaos - in a bad way. None of the music flowed into each other. Nothing seemed to be standout in any way compared to Tara or Third Storm of Cythraul. I think the biggest annoyance was the starting scream. It really set the pace for the rest of the record. It honestly sounded like Givens was having his vocals chords torn. It was terrible. His vocals on the rest of the album were okay, but I think the most depressing thing is that we didn't get a track that was like Amy off of the last album. It was catchy, it was driving and it was well written...and that just didn't happen.
I was amused at how the music didn't flow. Seriously. Take the cover of Morbid Scream's vocals...picture those vocals over Tara's drums and Cythraul's bass/guitar parts. Now put them in all different time signatures and mix them in a studio and piss around with them in pro tools, and holy hell, you have Abzu. It was frustrating to say the least, but it was also just downright sad and annoying. I couldn't even bring myself to fully finish a track off the album except the last song, which was actually pretty good.
To be frank, I guess I did like the last track, and also the lyrics were written flawlessly as always. And the ritual behind the album is phenomenal. I have always appreciated this in the album, which is why I could not bring myself to giving these guys any less of a score than I did.
I guess the most frustrating thing about this album was the wait. I wish I could be nicer, but with a band that has a history like Absu, it's hard to critique without basing it off past glorious wins that seemed to be every album till this shitheap. I honestly have nothing much to say about this album nice, other than the production increased.
Two-and-a-half years after returning to the extreme metal conscience with their self-titled record "Absu", the American black/thrashers are back with the not-at-all-confusingly-titled "Abzu" and by the sounds of things the same desire to play at speeds which leave you wondering why today's modern thrash upstarts are playing so damn slowly. The whole Absu aesthetic has always been slightly bonkers - silver painted faces, lexicographically-accompanied album sleeves, absurd song titles - and this tendency is evident from the opening onslaught when "Earth Ripper" kicks in like the demented cousin of Mercyful Fate on a surge of high-class speed and barely halts until 14-minute closer "Song For Ea" backs down momentarily. "Circles Of The Oath" and "Skrying In The Spirit Vision" could be the soundtracks to high-speed car chases in Hollywood movies as riffs fly off in all directions like shrapnel from an explosion while mainman Proscriptor, as usual on drums and vocals, does his best to simultaneously tear his vocal chords to shreds with both high and low vocals while providing the usual manic drum performance we have come to expect from him down the years.
"Ontologically, It Became Time & Space" (a title I wanted to include here regardless of it's quality) however sums up my over-riding feeling of a great portion of "Abzu", in that the meaning and purpose that has felt so key to previous Absu works seems strangely absent through much of this, as riffs have seemingly been thrown together at lightning speed without the same consideration to the overall textures which made 2001's "Tara" such a classic. "Song For Ea" is closer to that mark, veering between moments of Melechesh riffing potency and Enslaved chord progressions and guitar sound but is oddly constructed - frequent and abrupt tempo changes make it hard to discern any real flow throughout.
Absu are such a curious and technically constructed band that no doubt more facets of "Abzu" will be revealed over time (& space, ontologically) but numerous listens have not left the indent on the brain which previous outings from this band have done; the will to break speed records at such consistency has impacted on their rich personality and smooth variances which at best here are a little harsh and abrupt. Still a record I would recommend to newcomers to the fastest end of black/thrash metal but in this case not in mind of providing evidence of Absu's greatest work.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net