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Despite being one of Germany's most well-known Black Metal bands, Absurd's earliest output was hardly deserving of such a label. The primary reason the band was even known had less to do with their songwriting abilities and more to do with the murder of one of their schoolmates. In the end, the entire episode was rather foolish and not at all something to be proud of. Rather than dissolving as a musical entity, the band members were still able to record music and carried on with their particular brand of noise pollution.
The material on Absurd's 1995 demo, Thuringian Pagan Madness, has more in common with Oi-punk than with Black Metal. The guitar riffs and drumming patterns owe a lot to early punk bands. There is a catchy vibe to these songs, especially on those that feature clean vocals, like "Gates of Heaven". Even the utilization of harsh vocals fails to lend more of a black feeling to the music. The riffs lack any sense of darkness or evil, whatsoever. There are moments where a gloomy feeling is conveyed, but it is very mild. The production is total rubbish, which says a lot for how awful this sounds. The percussion is a little too high in the mix, though that makes sense as this appears to have been recorded live. There seems to be little or no distortion to the guitars, which do not sound Metal in any way at all. To label something like this as Black Metal is very misleading, regardless of how Absurd's sound developed in later years. While they may have enjoyed listening to Bathory, Darkthrone and Burzum, their music bears more similarities to the Misfits than any of those groups.
In some ways, this demo is hardly worth listening to. It certainly should not appeal to fans of Black Metal, or even those that appreciate the band's later output. However, it is somewhat infectious and, after a couple listens, it gets stuck in your head. After a while, one might even get used to the odd blend of styles found here. This is particularly true if you like old punk rock with the same simplistic arrangements and garage-quality sound. Otherwise, if you are seeking grim Black Metal that this period was known for, listen to Moonblood instead.
Written for http://ritesoftheblackmoon.tripod.com
"TV speaker: 'Three adolescents from Sondershausen are on trial. They are followers of the satanic cult. They allegedly killed their schoolmate Sandro Beyer. They consumed hundreds of horror videos, from which among other things they got their taste in black masses, says Jürgen Hauskeller, priest in Sondershausen.'
Jürgen Hauskeller: 'The dealings with this inhuman ideology, in which the murder of humans is practically part of the program, just enabled these adolescents to...'" - cuts into the first song.
With this maybe most legendary sample from one of the many TV reports surrounding the Sandro Beyer murder and Absurd controversy in 1993 (translated into English for this review) this even more legendary demo tape opens, perhaps one of the most famous and most controversial cornerstones of the development of German Black Metal. Just the cover art of Sandro Beyer's tombstone and the ironic sample of a news reporter and a priest trying to fit what happened into an understanding of the world that had best been left in the middle ages sets a premise that almost makes Mayhem's infamous "Dawn of the Black Hearts" look like child's play, and the music following it doesn't fail to deliver on the premise set. All five songs on this release are infinite classics in Germany, on top of all the breathtaking opener Werwolf, which probably was the first Extreme Metal song I ever heard in my life back in 1993. Very effectively written, simple arrangements based on simplistic but extremely catchy riffs and passionate vocals that are just "normal" enough to let you easily make out the equally simple but effective lyrics, all this combines to a very captivating mixture of pagan madness induced into German Black Metal at its best.
Unlike earlier demos of Absurd, this was their first effort that had a very clear production, and skillful playing relative to the simplicity to the music, so this is when Absurd stopped being vulnerable to the claim of being just a talentless kiddie band that only gained fame through its murder of a schoolmate. This is indeed one undying classic of German Black Metal, and mandatory listening for all who wish to dive deeper into the legendary and captivatingly controversial history of this genre.