On a cold February evening this year, I went to see Absu and Immortal play at the Gramercy Theater in NYC. Although I mainly went to see Immortal, I was also excited to see what Absu had to offer. As I said in my review of the show, their thrash-inspired form of black metal made for a great live show. Especially impressive was lead-singer and drummer Proscriptor McGovern, who combined lightning-fast drumming with perfectly synchronized vocals. I’ll never forget how he stood up between songs to address the crowd, his silver headband gleaming from the stage: “And then, in 2000, Absu (insert epic/ridiculous/awesome reference to one of their songs here)”. So with those impressions in mind, what does Absu bring to the listener on the new album, Abzu?
In short: an extremely well-written, entertaining record filled with some of the best extreme metal released this year.
While Absu was a solid release, the new record feels much more alive and fresh. With a wailing scream the record kicks off with the riff-laden opener, Earth Ripper. Earth Ripper throws Absu's Thrash influences right out in front, as the riffs and rhythms strongly resemble those of Show No Mercy-era Slayer. From there, the sound takes a much blacker turn with Circles of the Oath, a ferocious and dramatic electrical-storm of guitars and drums, mixed in with slower, more atmospheric arrangements. Along with Circles, other highlights included the unstoppable Skyring in the Spirit Vision, and the tremolo-laded Ontologically, It Became Time and Space.
Abzu is a very consistent record, one which requires no song-skipping (ok yes, there are only 6 songs on the whole thing, but that’s not the point!). Each song flows very well into the next, and the production allows the listener to hear all the riffs clearly without any over-production. The album has a very crisp sound and yet still has a hazy atmosphere produced by the myriad of cymbals blasting everywhere around you. It seems this was the intended effect as Proscriptor indicated in an interview this April:
Before attempting the final mix, we plan to transfer the rhythm section onto two-inch tape to thaw out its digital timbre. With this record, we are appending dirtier elements of psychedelia and fusion…I can tell you this album will definitely not be a 'natural progression' from previous releases, but a feat of metaphysical conquest and murkiness.
Ok, so the "metaphysical conquest part" sounds a little overly dramatic, but I get what he means by the murkiness part- in a positive way of course. At just over 35 minutes, the album gets right to the point and never loses focus, but another song or two would have been nice. Perhaps A Song For Ea is needlessly long, as each of its many parts could have been split into great songs of their own. Basically, the album might have been improved by there being more of it to listen to. In other words, I can find very little to dislike on Abzu. Great riffs, great rhythm, elaborate drumming, and crisp production that preserves a rich atmosphere: Absu has made another great record.
Favorite songs: Circles of the Oath, Skyring in the Spirit Vision, Ontologically, It Became Time and Space.