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Right from the way this album starts I knew it was going to be another genre essential. The first song, Prelusion to Cythraul / ...And Shineth Unto the Cold Cometh..., starts with acoustic leads and an atmosphere created by winds and thunderstorms, commonly only seen in folk metal bands. After two minutes we hear a signature Proscriptor drum roll and the annihilation begins! From there there’s no looking back. They have recreated the aggression they showed on The Sun of Tiphareth and added more variety and tempo alterations with it.
Amongst the three classics they’ve already come out with (The Sun, Tara & this one), this one is usually overlooked despite the fact that it’s just as good as them if not better. The 80s thrash assault, to precise the kind Exodus are known for, has been amplified and presented here. Now imagine what that would be like, and I can assure you I’m not exaggerating. The amount of thrash is considerably more here as compared to the previous offering but then so is the medieval atmosphere, resulting in a mixture so unique and distinct that you’re completely blown away before you know it.
The riffs are newer, fresher, and more complex. Yet they manage to keep up with the monstrous speed of the drums. It disappoints me that they haven’t released any DVD so far and I can’t see them live. I’m writing this review at 1 in the afternoon whereas I heard the album the night before. What I’m saying is that my neck is seriously hurting with that entire head banging I did. Heck, I don’t feel so exhausted when I come back from actual gigs. Now that’s how powerful this release is. And I repeat; I am not exaggerating.
There are very few black metal bands I listen to frequently. This is one of them alongside giants like Bathory and Satyricon. The work is just so original that you never get enough of it, which isn’t the case with other artists in the genre. I haven’t shown as much interest in Mayhem, Darthrone, Gorgoroth or Burzum as much as I have shown in this band. These guys just deserve the attention more, in my humble opinion. They’re so good that they make the hype surrounding the aforementioned artists look ridiculous and unwanted. Sure, you might say I haven’t given them a proper listen but then I didn’t give this band much of a chance either. But they were able to grab my attention so easily that I never felt the need to finish the basics first. Black metal has never been my favourite sub-genre of metal I’ll tell you, but this band will probably make sure that it does.
From two minute fillers to 8 minute epics, everything is just perfect here. I’m running out of words to describe how great this band really is. The longest track on the album, ...Of Celtic Fire, We Are Born - Terminus (...In the Eyes of Ioldanach), is easily the best and is able to bring back fine memories of when I first heard songs like Walk The Path Of Sorrow, Dark Medieval Times or A Fine Day To Die. Such vibrant and brilliant use of effects and side instruments to create atmosphere can be seen rarely. Acoustic guitar, keyboards, flutes, everything can be identified. The song epitomizes technical song construction and beautiful instrumental arrangements in a black metal record. It’s like musicians more talented than Rush or Dream Theater came together and created a black metal band.
For some bizarre reason, this seems to be a overlooked album in Absu’s discography. Many fellate the intensely fast Tara, or the epic The Sun Of Tiphareth while ignoring the rest of their output. Granted, the first album was a somewhat dull excursion into early Darkthrone worship (and by early I mean the demo’s and Soulside Journey), but afterwards they released a string of masterpieces, and there’s certainly no reason to exclude The Third Storm Of Cythraul from those. Essentially it’s a transitional album between the epic, warlike black metal of The Sun… and the more intense thrashings of Tara. A warm, analog production helps the album to effectively recreate the obvious 80’s feel the band were going for here, and while the drumming isn’t as snappy as it ended up on Tara, Proscriptor still lays waste to all in his path with a constant barrage of snare pounding and insane fills. Guitars, meanwhile, are a tour-de-force of insane thrashing punctuated by tremolo abuse and wild, chaotic solos. This is far more blatantly METAL than the melodic ambience so typical of black metal at the time , another factor which makes Absu so ahead of their time (despite being unashamedly retro, of course).
The songwriting wildly veers between grandiose epics (the first and last tracks in particular) and short, punchy Kreator-on-laudanum face-rippers, the absolute highlights of those being “Swords and Leather” and “Highland Tyrant Attack”, both of which are modern thrash classics. There’s also a brief cover of Morbid Scream’s eponymous song, this being the band’s second Morbid Scream cover (the first being “”The Coming Of War” on The Sun of Tiphareth, although that one was greatly reworked so much as to become closer to an original song). It’s certainly better than hearing yet another damn cover of Kreator, Sodom or Bathory like every other band whips out these days, and really I’d prefer if many more modern black/thrash bands focused on dredging up totally obscure stuff to cover, as Absu have done here. Winding things up we get a few snatches of acoustics, sandwiched between which is the album’s absolute highlight “…Of Celtic Fire We Are Born”, which is simply a stunning epic which sounds like a natural follow-up to “Apzu”. This being the first of the band’s trilogy of albums based on Celtic mythology (the In The Eyes of Ioldanach mCD and Tara being the other two), the overall concept is very much rooted in a bizarre mix of ancient Druidish texts and Occult scenarios. None of it makes a hell of a lot of sense, but I’m sure they had a blast writing it all.
The digipak version also includes a bonus track with a ludicrously convoluted title, which seems to be a leftover from The Sun Of Tiphareth, since it’s production and songwritings sounds a lot more like the thin, cavernous approach of that album than the analog thickness of Third Storm. But that’s neither here nor there since this version is long sold-out, but it’s worth mentioning since it’s a killer track. Too bad they didn’t just include it on The Sun… though, because it deserves to be heard by all Absu fanatics, not confined to a limited edition release.
This is one of those albums that is not well received by the many metal heads for a simple reason. The huge success of the great album by Absu, Tara, made many new Absu fans almost overnight. Fans hungry for more turned to older Absu. The Third Storm of Cythraul being the closest full length album to Tara fans discovered it and were disappointed that it was quite different than Tara. While Tara was technical, very technical, and well thought of and laid out to the point of perfection, The Third Storm of Cythraul does not do this. Focusing on what Absu inherited from 80’s black/thrash bands (judging by the sound of this album possessed and Celtic frost inspired it) they produced a much needed album for the time. One that wasn’t afraid to take what metal was in the 80’s, raw, fast, high pitched, and just plain straight forward and riff based and put it into one good black/thrash album.
One of the three qualities of The Third Storm of Cythraul, perhaps the best of the three, is the thrash style, intensity filled, raw riffs. From Preclusion of Cythraul to …Of Celtic Fire, We Are Born the album is packed with blackened thrash riffs that carry and co-dominate the song (along with the vocals). Songs like Morbid Scream start off with a heavy slayer style riff, pounding and loud, then after the high pitched scream they start the repetitive, fast, and raw thrash/black style riff. Highland Tyrant Attack starts off in the same way, then latter having a flowing old style trash riff dominate. These riffs are ones that play well with short four to five word lyrics being sung over it, similar to possessed or slayer, in terms of speed and heavyness. A Magicians Lapis-Lazuli delivers the short, fast bursts of four to fine line lyrics followed by a simple, repetitive, raw, and catchy thrash/black riff that is perfect for head banging. Any and every song on The Third Storm Of Cythraul can offer a new type of enjoyment from the riffs, each with its own personality not sounding just like the riff in the song before or after, while still having the album maintaining a consistent sound throughout.
The other two great qualities of this album, the intensity and the vocals, go hand in hand in helping with the energy each song produces. On top of all the great blackened thrash riffs there are harsh, high pitched vocals. These aren’t your shitty “I have no testosterone” power metal vocals like Hammerfall. The vocal style on The Third Storm of Cythraul sounds like an angry Rob Halford combining his voice with the girl possessed by Satan from The Exorcist. The vocals on every song are harsh, fast, and energy filled. The extreme pace of the vocals, as well as the high notes they hit, help move along the black/thrash riffs and allow the song to pick up some great intensity. This album really captures the quality the heavy thrash bands had in the 80’s (like old Slayer, Possessed, and perhaps even Dark Angel) and combine it with that raw black metal feel with a hint of hatred. The Third Storm of Cythraul is the album for metalheads who want uncompromised raw black/thrash metal that has its roots in 80’s thrash and early 90’s black metal, but also still manages to do its own thing. The album falls short of perfection, but well above anything else in its class, thus making it a great album.