Absu – Abzu

Absu

Abzu

01. Earth Ripper
02. Circles Of The Oath
03. Abraxus Connexus
04. Skrying In The Spirit Vision
05. Ontologically, It Became Time And Space
06. A Song For Ea

[10/04/11]
[Candlelight Records]

Slayer‘s Reign In Blood  can be basically defined by two main features:

  • The huge impact it had on the thrash scene at the time. It became a classic simply by outdoing everyone in terms of speed and extremity and, by extension, led us deeper into the dank and inhuman world of extreme metal that we live in today.
  • THAT scream at the beginning of “Angel Of Death” — A sound so widely recognized that it can turn mass groups of metalheads into ‘SLAYYYYARGH’-shouting howler monkeys at even a mere mention; a sound so distinct that it has graced parody videos ranging from a father’s lament to a deranged rooster and a sound that ushers in half an hour of punk-infused thrash metal.

Strangely enough, Abzu starts much the same way with “Earth Ripper” – a soaring King Diamond-esque scream set against racing breakneck thrash.

However, Absu‘s sound isn’t as ‘old school’ as that comparison would have you believe, with a career spanning nearly twenty years and a fairly lax attitude to releasing new material, it seems they’ve seen it all and rather than simply resting on their laurels they make the effort to incorporate ideas that would be as at home in 1986 as they would be 2011. Their particular brand of blackened thrash is nothing short of all-encompassing, mixing the relentless assault of bands like Slayer and Bathory with a nod towards the more tech leanings of Coroner and Voivod whilst still maintaining a sleek and sharp modern veneer.

The aforementioned ‘Earth Ripper‘ is an essential litmus test for those who may not be familiar with the Absu sound as there isn’t really a great deal of variation contained within. Each distinct section on Abzu can be slotted into one of two categories: the fast parts and the faster parts. This means that sometimes the songs suffer from a problem that has plagued my forays into black metal nearly every time, where the album settles into a near-concrete tempo regime, each song can easily blur into the next one and if you’re not paying much attention then the entire album can pass you by without notice. My first few listens of Abzu consisted of me tuning in for ‘Abraxus Connexus‘ and then wondering where the rest of my half an hour had gone.

However, this record rewards repeated listening. Each time through you begin to notice more and more of intricacies involved in this blur of notes and drums, which is a million miles away from the more filthy blackened thrash I’m acclimatized to like Aura Noir and Nifelheim. Take drummer/vocalist Proscriptor for instance, who speeds through entire album with such an effortless feather touch that it’s quite unnerving – fills seems to swell in a flurry of rolls and cymbal hits before seamlessly transitioning into blastbeats and relentless double bass action without so much as a pause for breath. It’s made even more awe-inspiring that the aforementioned method is utilised for the entire duration of Abzu, making it either a feat of technical genius or some sort masochistic outlet to play live.

The elephant in the room though must be the 14 minute album closer “A Song For Ea”. It’s not often bands like this can easily pull off a track like that but when they do it becomes something really special, but where Impiety carefully designed 40 minutes of interesting and varied music with enough ebb and flow to justify the length, Absu appear to have taken ‘half-ideas’ that were never quite realised and forced them together. Each section has a distinct beginning and end before disjointedly moving on to the next in what seems like a collection of ‘mini-tracks’ rather than a full length epic.

Abzu is an album that can be a bit of struggle at times. Their previous self-titled record was a personal favourite of mine that I still come back to every  now and then but I can’t see Abzu doing the same, there’s some great tracks in the form of “Abraxus Connexus” and “Ontologically…” but it’s a shame that nearly half the running length of the album is stained by the lackluster closer. Previous fans will find at least something to keep them happy but for anyone new to Absu, I’d recommend Absu.

Absu’s Abzu get’s…

3/5

-DL

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