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Difficult album to review - 73%

DMhead777, March 2nd, 2020
Written based on this version: 2009, CD, Candlelight Records

My past with Absu is only this album. I bought it in the early 2010s, but recently took a few days to sit down and give my thoughts on it. I know that this was sort of a comeback album for Absu, but none of that really matters in this review because I'm taking it as face value. I went in only hearing "Amy" in my youth. It's one of the catcher songs and younger me loved the groove and simplicity. It's nice remembering the songs I grew up with because I can look back and see how much my taste evolved. When I sat down to listen to this, a bit of nostalgia hit me even though I was never a huge fan as a whole. It was all too extreme for me. Now that I am into heavier music I wanted to give it a proper chance.

I quickly realized that this would be a difficult album to review. The lyrics were on another level and throughout the entire run time I had no idea what was being talked about. I read up that this was the beginning of a trilogy of albums where Absu took a different direction lyrically. I'm not sure what they used to talk about, but this was all confusing to me. I'm not going to focus on the lyrics at all though. I feel like the music itself really makes this album stand out. Although, I do give credit to Absu for the complexity. It's not every day that you come across an album that is this set into a story. For those that dig that sort of thing, then you'll love it.

What I really wanted to focus on was the music itself. The instrumentals here are down right fantastic. I was constantly caught off guard due to how the songs changed. You'd have the rhythm going one way and half way through it just changes completely. "Magic(k) Square Cipher" is a good example of this. The song basically has an intro to its own self and is very well done. There is almost two minutes of pure jamming before the lyrics kick in. Also note that this is half way through the album and I'm still getting thrown for a loop. Absu seems to throw away normal song structure and I really enjoy that. "...of the dead" is seven minutes long and is split up into three or four parts. Normally I roll my eyes at long and dramatic tracks like these, but it works here. The complexity of the lyrics and instruments had me hooked despite me not knowing what the hell was going on lyrically. The song "13 Globes" has a solo within its first 15 seconds. This is established after 10 seconds of normal playing and took me by surprise. Characteristics like this made each track truly unique from its predecessor.

If I had any complaints about this album is that the rhythm guitar is a bit bland at times. When I said before that I loved "Amy" growing up, it's quite the opposite now. I feel that this is the weakest song on the album due to how straight forward it is. It's a bit too catchy for the sake of the rest of the album. This rhythm problem is on most tracks and doesn't really pick up until "Sceptre Command". The songs change up frequently within themselves, but I couldn't shake that bland feeling of mediocre rhythm. I don't understand why it stuck out so much here than literally anything else I listen to. Also, the vocals by Proscriptor are fine, but can get a bit repetitive. There isn't much variation in his style of harsh vocals. Twelve tracks of vocals is a lot to get through in this style.

Overall, I enjoyed the album quite a bit. A lot more now than I did eleven years ago. I see what I enjoyed then versus what I appreciate now and it's a polar opposite. This album has amazing guitar work that it completely forgives the complex lyrics. I don't take anything away from that because there are people that eat up this fantasy stuff, but it just didn't hold my interest. "Absu" really did make me want to listen to their back catalogue and sequel albums. During this time black metal was dominated by edgy lyrics. It makes "Absu" stand out among the others.

Recs: "13 Globes", "...of the Dead", "Magic(k) Square Cipher", "Girra's Temple", "Those of the Void Will Re-Enter", and "Sceptre Command"