Absu: Abzu

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Absu: Abzu
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Absu: Abzu
Black Metal, Thrash Metal
Candlelight Records
October 4th, 2011
Release length: 36:08
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When it comes to Absu, listeners know not to really expect a normal release by any means. Hailing from Plano, Texas, the group started off as a Death Metal act that eventually shifted towards a mixture of Thrash and Black Metal. But one of the biggest allures to this group is their conceptual albums. Barathrum and The Sun of Tiphareth look to Sumerian mythology, while the releases The Third Storm of Cythraul up to Tara were a trilogy based on Celtic mythology. In 2009 the band issued Absu, their self-titled release, which found the group beginning a new trilogy that seems to focus more on occult themes. But, does Abzu live up to the groundwork laid out by part one, or even meet or surpass the band’s previous material?

The album has a bit of a muddier sounding quality to it, which takes the combined styles and gives it a cold atmosphere. The guitars sound a little sharp with a decent bass presence backing them up that, unless you’re paying attention, you may not pick up on or possibly just chock up as the bass kicks of the drum kit. These are also a deep thud, which sounds nice and really gives the most bass input to the release with the rest of the kit having loud pounding snares against some pretty loud crashing cymbols. When the band focuses more on a Black Metal performance then having a Thrash sound that one could argue as similar to early first wave Black Metal acts that dabbled in this sort of field it becomes a whole other story. The quality allows the music to sound rich, menacing and full, while the Thrashier material still sounds good, but often is not that impressive due to a less-then-rich quality to the audio, feeling a little barren in comparison. The good news is that the only track on here that really has more of a Thrash presence is the opening track, “Earth Ripper.”

While the album’s length is roughly a little more then thirty six minutes, the release is actually seperated into only six tracks. Three don’t break the four minute mark, which leaves the rest to build the album up with track lengths of near or just over five minutes, and a closing track that hits nearly fourteen and a half minutes. The effort starts off with “Earth Ripper” which does capture more of an early Thrash sound that, again, comes across as something first generation Black Metal. For it’s throwback quality to the early days, it’s an interesting and even catchy song. The faster pace gives it a decent amount of intensity against some lower pitched and slightly restained rhaspy vocals with high falsetto wails coming in at key points that do build up some of the more occult atmosphere of the track. The song itself is good, but one of the problems because the snare drumming in certain passages coming off as slower then what the guitars are performing and ends up coming across like the instruments are off timed with one another.

The rest of the release retains that speed which is common to Thrash Metal, but for the more occult themes it takes on a more suiting atmosphere with some colder sounding material that still hits the listener pretty hard. “Circles of the Oath” mixes that heavier intensity well with some random slower moments that seem to build up more of an atmosphere, and it works well. These pieces are transitioned into and out of well enough, adding to the colder sound of the track. However that colder feeling doesn’t always come through on here, such as with the following track “Abraxas Connexus.” Again, it’s another good effort full of traditional Black Metal laced Thrash intensity, and it does have some varying speeds to it that give the track a nice amount of fluid variety to the solid music and performance. The only difference with this song among others is that environment of chilling occultist environments isn’t quite present here, and actually comes off a bit more sleek and stylish than even “Earth Ripper” had going on. This track and “Ontologically, It Became Time & Space” seem to have this sort of sleeker feeling to them, though “Ontologically, It Became Time & Space” actually winds up being a lot faster and aggressive, taking the emphasis away from the atmosphere of the track and more on the sinister nature of the music itself.

This release ends with the song “A Song for Ea,” the near fourteen and a half minute track. The colder occultish atmosphere returns in this song, and for being such an extended track length, there’s plenty of great changes to the flow of the music the keeps the song fresh. The music itself is, again, of a faster pace that seems to often hone in more on intensity, but without sacrificing the atmospheric elements of the recordingt like “Abraxas Connexus” did. This is largely in part of the fact that “A Song for Ea” is actually more like three songs combined into one. You can easily tell when one part of the song ends as if it were it’s own track, and after a small gap of silence the next track starts up, though still trying to stay with the original sound of the part previous to it. The third part, however, is just a slow, soft passage of lighter music, which actually would end the album out nicely if it didn’t go back into the sharper, more intense Black Metal material to actually end on, simply because it doesn’t really seem to suit the flow of the song despite how good it does sound in the end. Had that been done, as well as a similar lighter introduction track been utilized instead of hammer right into the Thrashier “Earth Ripper,” the start and finish of this release would have actually been pretty strong given how this effort is set up.

Abzu may not be the best Absu recording out there, but it’s a very strong release regardless. Sadly, the six track length, though technically eight given how the final song is set up, leaves you wishing the band had expanded on the album a bit more, maybe having one or two more songs included since the whole things feels like you just get into the album and you’re almost near the last song already. This isn’t to say it takes a while to build up or for you to get interested in. “Earth Ripper” really just comes off as a song that doesn’t quite fit the flow of the remaining five songs, and overall feels more fun in comparison to the atmospheric, more serious and intense material that follows it, and before you know it you’re near the end of the release. But for an album that clocks in roughly thirty six minutes long, it’s a solid effort that fans will easily rejoice over. Abzu by Absu is a solid Black Metal and Thrash effort that, despite some atmosphere issues, really stands out well in their discography, and the Black Metal genre itself.

01. Earth Ripper – 3:49
02. Circles of the Oath – 5:13
03. Abraxis Connexus – 3:55
04. Skrying in the Spirit Vision – 3:53
05. Ontologically, It Became Time & Space – 4:49
06. A Song for Ea – 14:26
Overall Score: 8.5/10


Digital review copy of this release provided by Candlelight Records.