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A review of one of my favourite albums of all time seemed a good idea with Absu’s long-awaited successor to "Tara" finally out this year and as a first European tour in many, many moons is currently in mid-progress (London in a few days for me!), the stock of these American black/thrashers may never have been higher after a tortuous period of inactivity. Long-time band members may have left and record labels may have changed, however above all else, creating an album to follow on from "Tara" is a challenge that would probably take anyone eight whole years in it’s own right, as you will now see why...
Undoubtedly one of the most technically accomplished of all extreme metal classics, "Tara" is like nothing you will have ever heard; forget what you think you know about extreme metal drumming and guitar-playing dexterity, you have not heard anything until you've heard this. Being the very definition of OTT in its execution, "Tara" does nothing by halves. Enigmatic mainman/drummer/vocalist Sir Proscriptor McGovern must have a severe case of ADD; he hyperactively destroys his drums through a combination of truly mind-blowing speed, complex fills and time-signature changes that are so explosive one's attention could easily be detracted from some of the sharpest, most devastating riffs you will ever hear being laid down by a mere human. The dominant riffs of "Pillars Of Mercy" and "Manannán" are astonishingly merciless, worthy of comparison to the likes of Slayer at their very "Reign In Blood" best. However that is not to forget "A Shield With An Iron Face", a song resplendent in it's collaboration between riff and drum, working together in perfect harmony to showcase an attention to detail much greater than one would expect from 'mere' magnificent song-writing skills. Nor should "From Ancient Times (Starless Skies Burn To Ash)" be discarded which arrives with the power and destruction of a herd of wildebeest charging through your living room. How about the whiplash inducing madness of "The Cognate House of Courtly Witches Lies West of County Meath"? You get my point I think.
Despite the unrelenting blackened-thrash speed of "Pillars Of Mercy" and "Manannán" Absu somehow maintain total control, crafting monuments of creative genius played at breakneck speed. This control under the most demanding of self-imposed conditions is akin to that of a machine-gunner spraying a field of men yet only picking out the enemies and never his own men. I can guarantee it will take you a number of listens to begin getting your head around this display.
Perhaps unsurprising given the emphasis on drums and guitar the bass end of "Tara" is a little understated in a wall of sound production job, although it could be argued Absu dig themselves out of this hole with riffs so lavishly played they serve aplenty for a number of albums, not just one. Themes of Celtic mythology dominate McGovern's lyrical output so intensively that a lexicon of terms is provided in the booklet to assist the unaware in the story of Tara played out across this 'concept' album, confirming the aforementioned extraordinary level of detail found right across the album. Key to "Tara"'s 'classic' status and worth as a hallowed 10/10 is the avoidance of repetition in the midst of the unrelenting speed - "Vorago (Spell 182)", for instance, is filled with so many spiraling, proficient riffs that most bands go through an entire career without producing just one to match; "Bron (Of The Waves)" introduces some cathartic acoustic tranquility, leading wonderfully into the classic metal tinged "Stone Of Destiny (...For Magh Slécht And Ard Righ)" where more spectacular musicianship is served with the addition of McGovern's most admirable attempts at King Diamond ball-clenching vocals. Only like all truly great records can a story be told about every song.
Bookended by an atmosphere-drenched bagpipe introduction and outro, "Tara"'s 52 minutes fly by. With closer "Tara (Recapitulation)" and the ceasing of the album's whirlwind of riffs, the lone bagpipe symbolically escorts your battered body and mind from the battlefield, until you press 'play' again to begin asking again: "how the fuck did they do that?".
Originally written for Rockfreaks.net
Holy intensity Batman! Absu's 2001 effort, Tara, may have the common decency to let you recuperate between every few songs with goofy bagpipe bridges, but the black thrashing metal madness of the rest of the record is so relentless that the breaks become moot point. I am very new to Absu, to be quite honest. I had heard the previous album, The Third Storm of Cythraul, and found it to be nothing special. Well over a year and a half later, I downloaded Tara on a whim, listened to it once, and bought it immediately afterwards. Maybe it's the improved production or the more identifiable songs, but this one just kicks the shit out of their previous work in every way possible. Even after several listens and over a year to sink in, Storm hasn't resonated with me at all, and I really don't plan on listening to it ever again. Tara, on the other hand, whipped me so ruthlessly at the get go and I was screeching some shit about crying quiet lakes as I was in the process of ordering it a mere hour after the bagpipes of the title track began.
There are two main things that make this so spectacular, and they are Proscriptor's terrifying drumwork and Shaftiel's riffwork. There are some people who have complained about the riffs here, and I really can't understand it at all. They are all incredibly fast, ripping black/thrash hybrids that stick in your mind like peanut butter to a scrotum (thanks in part to the frequent syncopation of the vocals). Proscriptor, whom I became familiar with through his work with the mighty Melechesh, blows away every expectation I had coming into my listening experience. Everything he impressed me with on Sphynx is amplified by 12 on this record. He's mechanically precise and creative with his fills/beats, and his vocal work is varied and interesting throughout. The highlight is probably "She Cries the Quiet Lake", where he does the weird uh-huhing thing (SHE CRIES THE-UH QUIET LA-HAY-HAKE!) that typically would never work with harsh vocals, but it seems to flow well enough here. Maybe I'm just a fanboy in a way, but I can't help but cream endlessly about the musical qualities of the record. The only downside are the pointless bagpipe interludes that pop up a handful of times throughout. I don't feel like they really add to the atmosphere (apart from the last track), and I fail to see why they were even included in the first place other than to remind the listener that this was based of Celtic myth.
Which brings me to something that leaves my head spinning... what the fuck is this album even about? It's the last part of a trilogy, and the booklet gives background and explanation about every track, but I'm still completely lost. The theme is impossible to follow to me, and while that doesn't really make a huge difference in my analysis, it is something that flusters me. I love understanding the music I listen to, and that's why I'm such a whore for "making of" documentaries and comments from the artists. But when the artist himself leaves me more confused than when I started, there is something seriously wrong with my head. Overall, this is highly recommended. Black/thrash has never been this intense nor punishing. Despite the traditionally trebly guitar tone, this stands as one of the most relentless albums in my possession.
Ferociously Technical! Mind-Blowing Beats! Relentless Vocals!
These are all understatements when describing Tara. This is hands down the best album that this genre has produced. I'm not even a huge fan of most black or thrash metal, but this album blew me away, right from the start.
The song writing on Tara is smart and meticulous. The lyrics are dark and of an epic nature. They are intelligent and have a deep meaning behind them, hard things to find in the black/thrash category. The production quality isn't fantastic, but the fact that the album is still this great despite it, makes Tara that much more impressive.
The instrumental sound is constantly changing and technical. Time signatures are all over the place, primarily due to the proscriptor's maniacal drumming ability. One of my favorite things about Tara is how well you can hear every instrument without it sounding cluttered. Absu really knows how to build up the momentum of each song. And Tara is packed with solos that will undeniably blow your feeble mind. Examples: The guitar work on Pillars Of Mercy and Vorago. The drum work on She Cries The Quiet Lake and Stone Of Destiny.
Let's talk about the vocals. Without question the weirdest thing I have ever heard. They sound like a medieval grunt mixed with some sort of wild animal growl. The singer mixes up the vocals using screams, growls, grunts, and the occasional epic over-voice. To some it up they sound absolutely disgusting and Tara wouldn't work without them.
The Drums!!!! The drums are the most phenomenal thing, not just on this album, but on this fucking planet! Double bass kick so fast that you'll have to take a second listen to it because you're ears won't let you believe what they've just heard. Proscriptor's talents don't stop there either, the constantly changing time signatures that are unrelentingly technical are mind-altering. He can play in 40-60 in the same amount of time it takes someone to play in 4-4. Yet, he never over- does it. It produces an almost inhuman sound.
The guitar work is nothing to be ignored here either. The whole album sounds like Misrilou on acid. Solos that couldn't be re-created by the best guitarist in the world. SO fast-paced and melodic at the same time. Many metal guitarists can play fast, but it's usually simply shit or it's so distorted you can't tell what's going on. You won't find any of that on here.The guitars produce a hard metal sound, but done at thrasher speed. Always technical and changing throughout the course of each song. It's just full-blown in-your-face destruction!
Tara is so balanced when it comes to the sound of the instruments. Everyone's going nuts, but somehow you can still here what everyone is doing individually. This album will be the soundtrack to Armageddon!
Overall High Points: Smart Lyrics and vocals unlike nothing you've ever heard. Super-Human Drumming! Extreme guitar speed mixed with thought-provoking rhythm. A very intelligent album in every way.
Overall Low Points: If I had any complaints, it would be that the vocals can occasionally get kind of annoying. And just a couple of the songs kind of start to sound alike.
If you like fast crazy music, you'll love Tara. If you don't, I guarantee you'll at the very least be impressed by this and gain a whole new perspective of black/thrash metal. Tara, definitely changed my outlook on this genre.
Favorite songs: Pillars Of Mercy, She Cries The Quiet Lake, Vorago, Stone Of Destiny.
For anyone who hasn't heard Absu, you're missing out. They started out as a death metal band, somewhat like Darkthrone. Absu, however, maintain their death style, but added black and thrash elements.
Tara is, in my opinion, one of the best black/thrash albums. Perhaps it even ranks up there with Bathory's "Blood Fire Death" and Aura Noir's "Black Thrash Attack." However, Absu retain their own style(s) in just about every aspect. First, and most obvious, are the drums. This is an all out attack on the blastbeats, but they are still not overused. Proscriptor is a madman behind the kit. The ferocity at which he plays, mixed with his hoarse vocals, is glory. In the song "She Cries The Quiet Lake" it features some of the most unusual patterns I've ever heard, making the drums stand out in a way unique from other bands. The guitars are mainly thrash riffs, but you can also hear the major influence and repeat of black metal riffs. And, a certain "chug-chug-chug" death metal bass backs all of this up.
From the beautiful bagpipe introduction to the bagpipe closing, this album is nearly perfection. There is not much else to say about this album that has not previously been said. It's good.
This album would be a pretty good Slayer release, well in the context of what they really HAVE been putting out in the last few years. Slayer is of course the comparison everyone seems to make to any band that sounds the slightest bit thrashy, but overall I don't really hear it, so the only reason I made the reference is because Proscriptor tried out for Slayer when Lombardo left, and was one of the forerunners for the job.
I can see why. The dude is talented. He's also obnoxious as fuck. The drums on ths album really take over the riffs far too often, and honestly it's the drumwork that's varied, not the riff work, and that just doesn't fly with me. The production reflects this, and thus the whole album has a very slick, modern feel. It is not raw like Hell Awaits, and sounds more like Nifelheim going into an expensive studio, getting an unlimited budget, and putting out some unimaginative fast thrash, but with the dial settings REALLY optimised for modern clarity. Unfortunately, this means nothing gets a true emphasis. I don't hear the riffs.
I mean of course they're THERE, but there are hardly any really overt grabber riffs... there are tremolo riffs up the ass, but still this does not feel at all like Pleasure to Kill, which is of course the king, lord supremator, divine massive emperor, humongous wiener, Dei Gratia Rex, Ind. Imp., of ALL tremolo-based albums. What makes PtK great is that the middle sections come in and absolutely destroy. In here, they do not. Listen to the first song (well, not the intro, the second song, I suppose), Pillars of Mercy, and the middle section just does not going. There is no "I return to the cemetery...." bashing middle part. The little lick that is supposed to segue from one riff to another gets drastically overused, while Proscriptor pretty much plays a solo.
The album does actually slow down a bit after that... Reign in Blood was mentioned as an apt comparison, but Reign's riffage is far more clear, and far more memorable - even the songs in the middle that many people call "slop" have their moments - I can remember Epidemic, Reborn, etcetc.
Furthermore, the riffs are never brought out - ever. This LP has a kinda neutered guitar tone, as opposed to that legendary "Slayer/Kreator/Dark Angel/Sodom/oh just about every heavy/brutal thrash band ever" crunch. It is very trebly, but not scratchy-powerful like Coroner or Shah. It sounds like it's mid-trebles (3000hz) were amped up a bit, but the really high noisy treble that makes metal have that subtle distortive crunch (6000hz) was turned very much down. Therefore, no guitar work really truly stands up and screams. There is no dynamics in the guitar - neither implied nor explicit. Contrast this with, for example, Angel of Death, where that middle break forces you to listen because the sound-space shifts subtly towards the guitars - the drums slow down, and the guitar notes as well, therefore causing each note to hit you like a hammer. Here, there are no hammers. The individual notes do not ring out, but rather kinda blend together. Again, the high-trebles are gone, and the whole thing is mush.
Also, you've got the vocals, which are thin and scratchy. This is no Dani Filth, but again, it sounds like one is trying to be 'grim' for the sake of being 'grim', without thinking of what the sound is supposed to represent. I suppose because Bathory had the lizard-shriek, so must everyone else? But Bathory put that on top of an atmosphere of pure EVIL, while this album sounds more like an average thrash wannabe, with poor production and a sojourn into history... far more British Sabbat than Japanese Sabbat, and lacking the riff power and spitting delivery of the first band, and the all-out brutality of the second.
Again, the production is very muted. Very modern and "Testament goes from the first two LPs to the Still Deadly collection" style. I can hear everything, but nothing blows me away. Pandemonium and Darkness Descends this is not - albums with monster guitars, sloppy production, loud and spirited drums, and overall crushing atmosphere. This isn't even South of Heaven, with its top-notch production and the brilliant fills of Lombardo complementing the vicious riffage. No, this is just kinda "here's everything, go run wild with it". The instruments share sound space, but don't coexist in it.
Technically the sound is perfect, but the album still is flat and lifeless. It doesn't even have the charm of the first Sodom full-length, which is also sloppy and scratchy but more in the Hellhammer vein than anything else. These guys are no Hellhammer. There is a difference between sloppy riffs played entirely from the heart, and kinda weak riffs played just because metal needs a guitar component. There is nothing sloppy about this album, which definitely takes away from the emotional component. This is about as technically perfect as a Dream Theater release, and just as sterile.
So, the highlights... well, the previous review mentioned that the songs sound all the same, and I tend to agree. "Four Crossed Wands" does have a few note progressions that sound generally Slayer-ish, especially 1988-1990 era. But the real true memorable parts are very few and far between. "Stone of Destiny" has the novelty value in that it doesn't sound EXACTLY like the rest of the album. But at that point it is too little, too late.
I do not hate this album. I can listen to it in the background. But I could also go another lifetime without ever wanting to hear it again.
Absu have done it yet again, releasing an absolutely mindblowing metal masterpiece this time. This is their finest album, and I almost feel sorry for the band after releasing this opus, it'll surely be impossible to top. Where to begin? This album is fucking flawless, I don't have one complaint.(I'm picking my jaw up off the ground as I begin to listen to 'Pillars of Mercy' again.
The album begins with a melancholic peice performed on the bagpipes by none other than Sir Proscriptor McGovern(Drummer, Vocalist, Lyricist), before blasting into thrashing madness with Pillar of Mercy. Right away, the onslaught of incredible musicianship and songwriting capability hits you, these guys know how to put a song together. The first thing that stands out is the drumming, it may take several listens before one can actually get over how fucking good Proscriptor is. not only does he blend the fastest double kick, drum rolls and snare blasts I have ever heard, but he has more variation in his drumming style on this one album than many bands have in their entire career. Tara is full of the most interesting fills and drum beats(See Manannan and She Cries the Quiet Lake)you'll ever hear; not to mention the fastest. If the drumming isn't ebough to keep one entertained, the guitaring will be. Tara is also chock-full of excellent thrash-esque riffs, which catch you off guard, out of seemingly nowhere. If you're into headbanging, you'll need a neckbrace after listening to this. The vocals are top-notch black metal shrieks performed only by Proscriptor.. which I was very pleased about, as he's always been better than Shaftiel. The album ends perfectly with the slowest, longenst and most epic song Absu has created thus far. Stone of Destiny is hailed as their traditional metal masterpiece. Following it is another short bagpipe piece. All in all, this is one hell of an album, I suggest picking it up, or killing yourself.
This is like the most perfect black metal album ever. And it's not even completely black metal. Bands should really use Absu as an example of what to be. They put all of the guitars in the right spots, and the drums are amazing.
That's the best part. The drumming. Holy crap. Using the term "running on the double-bass" doesn't even apply to Proscriptor, who is easily one of the best drummers in metal. It's more like "sprinting on the double-bass pedal" or "driving a car on the double bass pedal", or my favorite "shooting a really fast machinegun at the double bass pedal". That's how fast it is. His bass rolls are so fast, it almost sounds like a drum machine. Now, if you don't want fast, how about technical? Proscriptor is ALWAYS hitting his drums...and it's not just blasts. He pulls off weirdo fills with flair, and pulls off crazy snare tricks all in the meantime. Must be heard to be believed.
The vocals are very black metal. Shrieking throughout, and even a bit of power metal-ish vox on Stone Of Destiny (by Ronnie Trent), the albums vocals CANNOT be better. No if's and's or but's.
Lyrics, lyrics, lyrics. While I don't take off points for horrible lyrics, I do ADD points for amazing lyrics. This is one of the albums that gets 5 points just for being so well written. There's a fucking dictionary/glossary in the back of the booklet! How cool is that?? Lyrics are basically based on Celtic mythology. First half (phase) of the CD is based on a poem from Celtic mythology. The second phase is based on occultism and the Cythraul Klan Of ABSU (themselves)'s expeditions, and whatnot.
This album MUST be heard to be believed, as said above. I am inches away from giving it a 999.
Only so much can be understood about such excellent albums as this through the words that would-be reviewers choose to describe them with...so before I continue, honestly, BUY THIS! If you're a black metal or thrash fan, you definately won't regret it.
This album reeks of professionalism, seriousness, and talent in every way imaginable. As mentioned before, even a cursory glance at the booklet will reveal a mine of information, both through the contemplative and intelligently written Celtic-inspired lyrics and through the quotations and glossary provided therein that describe and outline the cultural/linguistic terms being used. The gritty visual themes, quaint band photos and overall presentation complete a package that is already impressive, before you listen to them!
Lending validity to the inquisitive nature of the lyrical themes are various atmospheric/instrumental tracks in the album, such as the opener, closer, Bron(of the waves) and Manannan which break-up the intensity of the admittedly METAL album...the cultural identity established at the opening with Tara. From here, Absu explode into some of the best thrashy black metal every written, outshining their own back catalogue and putting to shame other contemporary black bands. The riffs throughout the entirety of the album -no tracks exempted- are technical, intricate and often subtly melodic. The bass unfortunately is difficult to extract from the mix, which is quite high and thin, but it doesn't remove any aural substance from the experience; the scathing and raw guitar tones that seem to stand alone in the songs somehow feel suited to the style they play. The lead vocalist/drummer is where this band truly shines in my view, however. Proscriptor's vocals are most often raspy but not overly screechy.....reminding me somewhat of a little cheeky goblin. Not singularly spectacular, but within the context of the genre, quite unique and therefore refreshing. As good as the guitaring is, Proscriptor's drumming (which is produced full, precise and clear), is as stylistically interesting and unique as anything you'll ever hear in thrash or black metal. He mixes all speeds of blasting (including the fastest spurts of double bass i've ever heard - check-out Stone of Destiny) with a great sense of rhythm and timely fills. Trust me, you've never heard drumming like this. She Cries the Quiet Lake is a good example of Proscriptor's excellent creativity....and the other band he plays drums in, Melechesh, are another good testament to his creativity.
Black metal fan? Thrash fan? Scottish granny? You can't afford to be without this album!!
If I could, I would give this a 200. It is that damn good! Absu is such an amazing band. They never fail to create some of the most insane, melodic, awesome music there is. With their previous releases, they set a standard that only few could match up to, and with Tara this is only built upon.
From the nice beginning babpipe intro to the final Tara(recapulation), this album is full of a non-stop aggressive, headbanging black thrash assault. Proscriptor's drum work is unbelievable, as are his vocals. He really utilizes them well, using many different forms of screaming, singing, you name it, this guy probably does it.
The music itself is highly technical, with insanely complex guitar riffs, backed by a superb bass and insane drums. It's roots in Celtic lore and mythology only help to give the album a feel of extreme mystery and aura.
The booklet is awesome as well. They don't cheat you with a 2-page booklet with only blank pages with one or two sentences in it. They really pack it full. Lyrics, photos, dictionary, credits, thank yous, linear notes, stories, fuckin everything is in this booklet!
I highly recommend you to pick this album up ASAP! You won't fuckin regret it. Hails!
I don't think there is another "power trio" as impressive as Absu... Proscriptor alone sounds like five people (or one man with ten arms). The masters of "occult mythological metal"'s fifth opus to celtic lore is easily their most accomplished work yet. The culmination of a trilogy my puny mortal brain cannot comprehend, full of mystical magick and pretentious lyrics, Tara sounds like a piledriver from Dolph Lundgren must feel.
A soothing bagpipe suite leads you into a false sense of security before the maelstrom descends... Pillars of Mercy sounds like Reign in Blood on some wicked crystal meth. The celtic fixation may lead you to believe that Absu play fiddles'n'lute folk-rock schwag... fear not. Tara is a swirling dervish of in your face black thrash, punctuated by blastbeats and driven by riff after fucking riff. There's virtually no time to breathe in between tracks, either, disregarding the brief intro in Mannanan and track 7. Stone of Destiny is the sole anomaly , a rousing slab of viking metal and a fitting end.
Points must be granted for Tara's excellent liner notes... there are full lyrics, thank you lists, a detailed storyline, even a fucking glossary (you're gonna need it =). Not to mention superior artwork, and goofy photos of the band. Rarely does a booklet hold my attention for more than one listen... this is an exception! Awesome band, awesome album.