Sep 012011

(NCS writer BadWolf returns to our fold with his take on the forthcoming sixth album from Texas-based Absu.)

Absu’s 2011 pseudo-self-titled album, Abzu sends a message: “We are back, baby!” But wait, you may say, didn’t they already release a comeback album in 2009? With a near-identical title? And a similar cover? And the same funky wyvern mascot? Correct on all counts. But where ­Absu was overweight and boring, Abzu is sleek and stimulating—it is the sound of a band dedicated to constant improvement 20 years after its formation. If only more veterans shared their vitriol and dedication.

While Absu may have the lyrical and vocal aesthetic of black metal, at heart they want to be Slayer. At this point, aping LA’s finest is more than cliché, it’s juvenile. Bands trying to be Slayer (or Exodus for that matter—I’m looking at you, Heavy Artillery records) ceased to be interesting or innovative years ago. Props to Absu, then for doing their heroes justice and only cherry-picking those elements that work: They embrace their little beauty marks (the Araya-worship screams that punctuate “Earth Ripper”), not their most-xeroxed techniques (no trem-bar solos here).

Love of thrash keeps Abzu from inducing black metal fatigue, unlike some of their older records. New guitarist Vis Crom has elegance in his riffs that Shaftiel and Aethyris lacked, and his aptitude for middle-eastern-style solo melodies finally feels at home in Absu, not shoehorned in. Band leader Proscriptor McGovern works his hardest to out-fill Dave Lombardo, but has a style of his own. Nobody strings together tom hits the way he does.

Concordantly, Abzu feels at once familiar and unique. The production mirrors this: The instruments are dry and crunchy, but register with modern digital clarity. And god damn do those drums pop nicely.  I felt a click when I heard this record, like when I try on a jacket in a store and it instantly registers as *the* article of clothing I was seeking. For the first time since Tara, the band is painting by magic, not numbers.  (more after the jump . . .)

The album’s side B, the 14 minute epic “A Song for Ea,” is sure to stir up discussion—it’s the longest piece of music Absu have ever recorded. As far as self-conscious focal points go, it’s serviceably melodramatic and atmospheric with subtle keyboard harmonies and great military-cadence snare-rolls, both courtesy of Proscriptor. The best guitar solos on the album lurk within.

That said, the song is very self-consciously divided into separate movements with audible track breaks that seriously dampen the piece’s momentum. As a result it feels more like four separate thrash songs with a synth interlude than a cohesive work.  I’m willing to bet that the decision to not break the movements up into separate tracks was a combination vinyl throwback and middle finger to the iPod generation—a fine choice, but one that fails to address the advantages of true through-composition.

Word to the wise, the people who would skip between movements will just fast-forward to their favorite section or skip the track entirely rather than suffer through irritating pauses where track breaks would have been, which is a shame considering that “A Song for Ea” is some of the most creative work Absu’s ever put to tape (hard drive?). A little more tweaking could have made it the perfect capstone to what is already a fine piece of art by some of the scene’s most under-appreciated veterans.

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Abzu is set for North American release on October 4th on Candlelight — so, yes, we’re way ahead of the game with this review, perhaps frustratingly so for readers. Candlelight Records USA has posted special CD/shirt preorder packages for Abzu at this location, and we understand they’ll be premiering a song from the album in the near future.

The album was recorded at Nomad Recording Studios in Carrollton, Texas, and the absolutely amazing cover art is by Polish artist Zbigniew Bielak (Watain, Behemoth, Destroyer 666, Vader). You can read an interview of Proscriptor McGovern about the new album here; it pre-dated completion of the recording process but includes some interesting insights.

Absu has scheduled some performance dates on the East Coast in November (accompanied by Philadelphia’s Infernal Stronghold) as well as a San Antonio appearance in October sandwiched in between some international gigs. And then on November 26, they’ll be appearing at Montreal’s Messe des Morts festival along with Inquisition, Glorior Belli, Forteresse and more. Here’s the Absu performance schedule so far:

9/10/2011 An Club – Athens, Greece

10/22/2011 007 Rock Bar – San Antonio, TX

10/29/2011 Aurora Infernalis Festival – Driel, Netherlands

11/10/2011 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA [info]

11/11/2011 Club Europa – Brooklyn, NY [info]

11/12/2011 Reverb – Reading, PA [info]

11/13/2011 TBA – Boston, MA [info]

11/26/2011 Messe des Morts Festival – Montreal, QC [info]

You can find Absu on MySpace here and on Facebook here. And finally, I can’t resist throwing in a little montage of Absu cover art from albums past — because the artwork is so fuckin’ cool.

  15 Responses to “ABSU: “ABZU””

  1. Needless to say, very much looking forward to actually hearing this album. Has anybody seen what the shirt looks like that they’re selling as part of that combo deal? I can’ find any pictures on Candlelight’s site.

    • I haven’t been able to find a pic of the shirts either. I’ll post a link if I have better luck later today.

    • Nope, waiting for that along with the final artwork for the LP as well. But I’ve ordered both nevertheless 🙂
      Many things in this review that echo some of my first impressions, but man, top of everything, the songwriting of Vis Crom and Ezezu are just phenomenal! Also, the guitar solos on the album were all done by Rune “Blasphemer” Eriksen. He also did a couple on Absu.

  2. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh i would give my left testicle to hear just a little snippet of new Absu music.
    also i don’t get how a lot of people did not like 2009’s Absu, i understand its very different from their previous records but it was still a very awesome record, but then again reviews are nothing more than opinions, and, well, to each his own.
    anyway this album sounds very promising, and that album cover, man that is some fine artwork i would very much like to have a tshirt with that printed on.

    • Completely agree on Absu, Top10 album for me in 2009, partly because it was awesome to hear new material after 8 long years of waiting (although Djinn and Sphynx from Melechesh granted some Proscriptor awesomeness), but for the largest part it was simply a stunning album in every way.

    • I hope this album cover is what’s on the shirt. I’m tempted to just order the shirt/CD, sight unseen. And believe me, I was so tempted to include a song with the review, but I’m trying very hard to be a good boy and not spoil the Candelight/Absu plans for song debuts, since they were nice enough to let us hear this in advance.I do think we’ll all be getting a song premiere in the next 2 weeks, possibly as early as next week.

      • Same here, thankfully you guys took the vanguard on this one, but I would so like to include the furious insanity that is Circles of the Oath in my review, but I’m guessing Earth Ripper will be the premiere track, and very fitting as such. But until we get it, I’ll be linking this fine review all over the place!

        • Thank you! I’m guessing Earth Ripper will be the first song premiere, too. And that name just kills me. How could you not want to listen to a song called “Earth Ripper”?

  3. Cannot WAIT to hear this album. Also really looking forward to “Dizzection”, the new Dissection album.

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