SHOULD YOU BUY THIS ALBUM? ABSU-F*CKING-LUTELY.
In a just future, heavy metal will be exalted not only for pushing musical extremes but also keeping alive interest in forgotten mythologies. What other genre of music engages so seriously the Norse lore of Enslaved, the ancient Egyptian myths of Nile, the Kabbalic fascination of Averse Sefira and the Sumerian (by way of Lovecraft) gods invoked by Morbid Angel? For every blasphemous black metal band that hates Christ through song, there’s another one singing blastbeaten praises to pre-Christian gods and goddesses.
Which you prefer may depend on how yer mommy raised ya. But for the times you’re feeling reverent towards a deity that Father O’Flaherty doesn’t know shit about, there is always Absu, longtime blackened dabblers in “mythological occult metal.” Ignore the lyrics to this Texan band’s eponymous fifth album at your own peril. While the music is more than strong enough to stand on its own, there’s something comforting about knowing that the 13 skintight jams on Absu go out to Mesopotamian spirits Bakaxikhekh and the mountain lord Enlil. This is positive music, meant to embolden gods and strengthen spells, not to destroy humanity. Plus, if there’s a god that takes delight in Absu’s blackened metal swarm, you definitely want to worship it, because it has great taste.
The Absu priesthood now has only one original member, and the lyrical themes have turned back to the Sumerian myths of Absu’s early records. The change is all good. Absu sound even more professional than they did on their last album, the Celtic-inspired Tara. The eight-year lapse between records, during which vocalist/drummer Proscriptor played in Melechesh, has only honed the ballsiness of his songwriting and skin-beating. The groove-laden death/black/thrash changeups of “The Absu Of Eridu & Erech” and “Girra’s Temple” document a musician in love with rhythm in all its metallurgic forms and totally comfortable with PDA.
Absu also turns out to be a terrific guitar album, rare for the blacker end of the metal bog. It isn’t just the ace guest solos from Mayhem’s Blasphemer and ex-King Diamond guitarist Michael Harris – guitarists Aethyris MacKay, Zawicizuz and Vastator Terrarum (no longer with the band) curse the enemies of Ur with clear, harmonically rich rhythm lashings. What Absu sacrifice in heaviness, they make up for in the clarity of their inventive riffs. Magic(K) Square Cipher” turns ever-shifting rhythms into a taut metal ritual, clean in contour and even cleaner in recording. Let this album be another piece of evidence in the trial against “necro” production choices in black metal. You can hear everything on Absu, and it enhances what the album’s already got goin’ on.
That clarity means space enough for some wicked prog synths and purty acoustic bits, plus the occasional middle-eastern mode that you might expect from a Behemoth disc. Or, you know, a band that sings shit like “You’re seized by the Ushum-Gal / Enclosed in Girra’s Temple / Sirrush is flying over / Storming over Neti’s gate.” But the crux of Absu is a ridiculously tight band playing mayhaps their best songs ever. The lyrics are unapologetically esoteric; the music is anything but. You can sing along with this catchy-as-fuck morsel, from “Ye Uttuku Spells”: “ANNIHILATE – the seeds of real! / ABANDON – the standard dimension feel!” Come on now, sing it loud. The gods are listening.
(four out of five horns)