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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