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Absu - "Abzu" (CD)

Absu - "Abzu" CD cover image

"Abzu" track listing:

1. Earth Ripper
2. Circles of the Oath
3. Abraxas Connexus
4. Skrying in the Spirit Vision
5. Ontologically, It Became Time & Space
6. A Song for Ea

Reviewed by on October 5, 2011

"'Abzu' is not quite perfect, but is still a top tier album of 2011."

Frontman/drummer Proscriptor McGovern lets the falsetto fly to get the sea of Absu flowing to follow up their 2009 self-titled opus. Hearing his take on King Diamond’s high voice is a welcome sign; it adds character to an already-individualistic group among a herd of followers. It also super charges an album that works at unheard-of speeds. The falsetto is a rare treat on “Abzu,” as Proscriptor opts for a more common black metal shriek for most of it. He possesses a grandiose vocal range, but the flash of his drum sticks are the true driving force behind this album.

Anyone familiar with Absu knows the drumming prowess of Proscriptor. He not only plays fast, but he creates complex patterns and fires off devastating barrages of rolls and fills. The drums are the defining aspect of “Abzu,” the second part in the story that started with “Absu,” so much to the point that this instrument drowns out the guitars.

The guitar tones seem a bit lean and mostly follow an unobtrusive path with the drums. That is not to say that there aren’t a few memorable guitar tracks. “Skyring in the Spirit Vision” show the guitar leading the way to start the track. A scorching solo brands the middle part of the track, and catchy thrash notes complete the song. “Abraxas Connexus” begins with the drums and guitar dueling back and forth, while “Circles of the Oath” contains a harmony fitting for band’s ancient Near East themes.

Straying from the monotonous rhythms and paces characteristic of so many black metal bands, Absu are tradionalists in the fact that they create chorus lines, verses and bridges. Of course, mixing black metal with thrash will result in a more traditional sound. Vocal refrain allows the band's use of key phrases and words for ritualistic purposes. This technique not only works on a supernatural level, at least for Proscriptor, but it helps listeners remember each track.

The use of keyboards also draws lines around certain parts, as well as enhancing the mystical aspect of the group’s mythological occult metal tag. Lying low like a newborn fog, keys enhance the mystical charm of acoustic guitar notes as “Circles of the Oath” fades. A soft orchestra of violin, wind chimes and piano brings a gothic tone to one of the chapters in the 14-minute epic “A Song for Ea.” This track will go down as one of the great songs in the pantheon of Absu.

“Abzu” marks another strong release for one of black metal’s most underrated groups. Few albums can touch the complex drum play, which actually causes the album to slightly slip from the grandiosity of its thematically-linked predecessor. For me, “Absu” was the perfect album and it received the perfect rating. “Abzu” is not quite perfect, but is still a top tier album of 2011.

Highs: The complex timing, speed and mystic atmosphere

Lows: The drums drown out the guitar.

Bottom line: Drummers, students of mythology and black and thrash metal fans will revel in "Abzu."

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)