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Absu have been a very creative, highly influential and pretty diversified band in the extreme metal genre and delivered a couple of strong records during the first ten years of their career. When the band went on a well merited hiatus, they decided to give the old and new fans some vital signs by releasing this lovely compilation of two discs in a pretty digibook including a detailed booklet with precise song informations and band photos from the early years up to their latest full length release.
On this release, the band varies from epic diversified blackened thrash metal anthems over atmospheric doom influenced instrumentals to a handful of well done cover songs that mix the originality of the originals with the typical Absu sound plus a few live tracks filled with a captivating raw energy. Personally, I'm not that much into extreme metal genres such as black or death metal but Absu have always been a very intense band that was courageous enough to try out things other bands didn't so that almost any metal fan of any sub genre will find a couple of tracks he or she likes on this compilation. It's a great look back and definitely a better alternative to a shallow greatest hits release for the old fans but also a brilliant introduction to those who are new to the band or have only known them with their latest outputs after the hiatus. This record inspires to check out the band's other releases without a doubt.
The record includes many excellent songs but I would like to point out one of each section. Concerning the rarities and alternate versions, the track "Stone Of Destiny" definitely shines. The original version was included on "Tara" and this verison here is one of the most diversified extreme metal tracks I have ever heard. Slow and brutally controlled death metal vocals in the key of Death meet high screams reminding me of King Diamond. Narrative passages in the middle part add a lyrical depth to the track and build up some atmospere without being overused and too conceptual. The diversified drumming definitely stands out through the whole song and goes from soft high hat passages over dynamical mid tempo passages up to pitiless high speed bits and pieces. The drums definitely build the whole dynamical structure of this killer track. This song is definitely one of my favourite Absu songs ever.
The three tracks featured with "The Temples Of Offal" are some of the earliest recordings of the band when they played straight death metal. Even these raw tracks already include fantastic breaks and never get boring musically even though I don't appreciate the vocals very much. The track "Immortal Sorcery" would be my favourite pick as it varies from incredibly fast passages to mid tempo passages that could also please to a thrash or groove metal maniac. The distorted guitar sounds in the middle passage are definitely a welcome experiment.
"And Shineth Unto The Cold Cometh" features a more prominent use of atmospheric synthesizer sounds and chilling acoustic guitars that build a stunning contrast to the first tracks on the first disc. There are still extreme metal passages of course which are pretty fast and feature a clearly improved and more unqiue vocal performance that sounds like blackened thrash. The title track is the better of both songs in my humble opinion and never gets boring in seven minutes.
"Hallstattian Swords" feature three previously unreleased tracks that are clearly written for a soundtrack and build up a lot of atmosphere with different folk passages, a dominating use of keyboard samples and noises of sword fights in some moments. While the songs are not so spectacular from a purely musical point of view, they are very atmospheric. I would cite "The Great Battle Moving From Ideal To Actual" as the most impressive song in this section. This one is without a doubt the most epic one.
Concerning the cover songs, they all sound great but even though I am a huge Iron Maiden fan, I would rather pick the band's interpretation of Mayhem's "Deathcrush Including Silvester Anfang" as it is the most atmospheric and energizing track and simply fits to the world of Absu.
The "Live" tracks are taken from concerts in Germany, Italy and France in 1995 and 1997 and display the band's raw energy of the early years. My favourite track is the slow and quite heavy "The Coming Of War" that builds up a menacing and powerful atmosphere that is regularly interrupted by impressive speed passages.
Concering the "Unreleased" songs, they have been recorded live during a rehearsal back in 1993 and are only instrumental. While both songs are maybe a little bit overlong and sound a little bit incomplete without vocals, I still prefer the longer track "Book Of Splendour" because the track sounds more diversified and includes many good basis ideas on which one could develop something even greater.
In the end, this diversified compilation is pretty entertaining and shows in an impressive way how one can use extreme metal in many different, original and even progressive ways. Absu definitely are among my favourite bands in this genre and apart of some unfinished tracks and a couple of more or less great sounds concerning the earliest recordings where the musical talent of the band can't shine as bright as on later studio releases, there's nothing wrong at all with this authentic document of a fascinating decade. Anyone who cares a little bit for extreme metal music should without a doubt call this compilation his or her own as this is a true genre highlight of an outstanding band.
I was not familiar with this Texan black metal band until I got this double digipack. Considered the creators of mythological and occult metal, these discs encompass a ten year career showing various aspects of their music.
Starting with ''Rarities & Alternate Versions'' one of my favorite for its energetic black music being also intricate with pace variation, some keyboards included. The song Stone of Destiny is especially noticeable. Then it is their debut demo called The Temples of Fal, a rather raw and old school style still including some good parts like : scary vocals, crazy guitars, bells, melody with calmer moments as well.
Thirdly And Shineth Unto the Cold Cometh, made of two songs only; the first one has a cool acoustic and key intro before turning into a raw black metal composition; the other is a raw and melodic opus. Closing disc one is my other favorite section: Hallstattian Swords, the more epic, dark, orchestrated segment composed of three instrumentals. Covers opens up disc two. This time Absu is serving us a mixture of good and bad : tribal drums, epic parts, samplings, crazy guitars, rawer and live sounding songs. Naturally followed by Live being hectic, raw and for me the least pleasant part to listen to. Then to close things up, two Unreleased compositions made of two unpolished, mid paced and melodic instrumentals.
It’s been four years since Absu’s last studio album, Tara and it seems the band is going to make there fans wait a little bit longer for the next one. So to treat their fans ears until that next studio album the band released this neat collection of rarities, old EPs, covers, and live recordings; fittingly titled ‘Mythological Occult Metal.’
This collection kicks off with a rarely heard song from the Gummo soundtrack called ‘The Gold Torques of Uláid.’ This particular song is an all out thrash metal assault using clear vocals and superb musicianship the likes of only Absu can deliver. Next up is the version of ‘Never Blow Out the Eastern Candle’ from the World Domination compilation. This version is a bit slower, and has some more keyboards in it than the version recorded on 'In The Eyes...' EP. Following that is an alternate version of ‘Stone of Destiny’ from the ‘Tara’ album. There does not appear to be much difference between this version and the 'Tara' version, but there are some subtle differences. Tracks 4 - 6 are definately interesting. These tracks are taken from the 1991 EP ‘The Temples of Offal’ and here the band offer up straight forward brutal death metal, in a similar vein to Darkthrone's 'Soulside Journey'. Definately a unique perspective of the band as they had not yet developed their sound they have now (or at least in 2001). In fact, Proscriptor hadn’t even entered the band yet and a guy named Benbow on drums and Lindholm on guitar with Equitant and Shaftiel. This is definately an interesting bit to have, but not really a great highlight as its not overly memorable - but worth the addition for showcasing the bands origin.
Tracks 7 - 8 are taken from the ‘...And shineth unto the cold cometh’ EP released in 1995. It’s at about this point in time that Absu really found their sound and started mixing thrash and black metal with some more exotic influences. Both songs did later appear on 'The Third Storm of Cythraul' (digipak edition) but here they are in their original format and is without a doubt one of the best parts about this collection. The final three songs come from the never released ‘Hallstattian Swords’ 7”. The songs are certainly interesting as they are just epic synth compositions that date back to 'The Sun of Tipareth'. Definately another high point, even if they aren't songs so to speak, but dark symphonic compositions.
Moving on to the second disc we have the bands cover of the Mayhem songs ‘Deathcrush’ and ‘Silvester Angfang,’ taken from ‘Originators of Northern Darkness’ Mayhem tribute. Naturally they are performed excellently and sound much better than Mayhem’s original. ‘Swing of the Axe’ is taken from the ‘Seven Gates of Hell’ Possessed tribute and again the song is performed flawlessly. ‘Transylvania’ is from the ‘Call to Irons’ Iron Maiden tribute album released back in 1997 and again the band does a fantastic job here covering this classic Iron Maiden tune. They play the song totally true to the original and Proscriptor’s amazing drumming really adds something to it. The cover of Destruction’s ‘Bestial Invasion’ is taken from a live studio jam back in 1996. This was done during a live studio jam so it does not have the high mix that are on the previous three tracks, but its definately worth the addition. The next four songs are live songs recorded between 1995 and 1997. These particular songs feature Mezzadurus (from Blood Storm) on Vocals and Bass. The songs are performed very well, even if the quality isn’t exactly perfect - likely not taken from direct sound board recordings. They are decent non the less, and well worth the addition here. The final two songs are unreleased rehearsal tracks recorded back in 1993. The lack of vocals and somewhat poor production take away a bit from these but absolutely cool to hear.
And finally, this collection comes in a nice thick digipak with many photos, and a detailed booklet. All things considered ‘Mythological Occult Metal’ is a great collection of material that Absu fans will certainly appreciate hearing these rarities. I do think that if you are new to the band, this is not really the place to start. But for those of us who are collectors and didn't have a chance to get their hands on all of their material, this is definately the release you have been waiting for. Depsite the fact that we might be waiting a while before the next new Absu, they really wanted to let their fans know that they have not forgotten about them as this release is really for the fans.
A must for Absu fanatics.