Absu | ‘Absu’
It may not be the outstanding track on the album – in fact, it’s one of the more bland – but opener ‘Between The Absu Of Eridu And Erech’ is just brimming over with a palpable sense of urgency one imagines has been burning inside Proscriptor and co. since starting work on Absu’s long overdue comeback; and also the fervour that many of the band’s fans have felt since the announcement last summer that work on the follow up to ‘Tara’ had started. This impression carries through from the first seconds almost to the very last, so much so that it seems amazing Proscriptor was able to let the band rest for so long while he occupied his time with Melechesh and other projects.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been all of eight years since the Texan unleashed upon the world that oft referenced Black Metal milestone, and the pinnacle of his almost schizophrenic merging of the Sumerian with the Celtic. But you don’t need to listen to much of ‘Absu’ to feel that almost no time has passed at all, as the intervening years have had little apparent aging effect on the band. No doubt this will come as a huge relief to Absu’s cult following. By the same token, those who have always been a little mystified as to what the fuss is all about are unlikely to find the answers they’ve been looking for in album number five.
Thirteen tracks clocking in at almost an hour, ‘Absu’ boasts more of the same ferocious, razor sharp riffing and the countless time and tact changes that have characterised all of the band’s previous work, all underlain by Proscriptor’s phenomenal, machine gun-like drumming. If there is a difference to the band’s previous efforts, it’s perhaps a better ear at times for the fine details, with a number of examples of a more subtle use of guitar leads, keyboards and effects to add a little depth to the songs than might previously have been evident.
In amongst the frantic energy, there’s also the odd infectious, almost hypnotic, moment on ‘Absu,’ serving to make the whole that bit more memorable. It would be untypical of McGovern’s very effusive and overstated character if subtlety were to gain the upper hand, though. And there is no shortage of extravagant, overblown lead guitar salvos or moments such as the very proggy keyboard finale to ‘Of The Dead Who Never Rest…’ Unfortunately, a particular facet of Absu’s sound that hasn’t changed is the tendency towards very monotonous, staccato vocals and vocal lines, which would almost certainly benefit from the diversity that characterises the rest of Proscriptor’s music.
The various people Proscriptor has come into contact with through numerous guest appearances and collaborations while Absu has been on hold have also left their mark on the album, with The Firstborn’s Mindwalker returning the favour of a guest appearance on the Portuguese band’s newest offering ‘The Noble Search,’ alongside Mayhem’s Blasphemer, Ashmedi from Melechesh and a whole host of others. One guest appearance touted last year not to have come to fruition unfortunately is a contribution by Jex Thoth, which you feel might have added a dimension to the album not necessarily managed by some of the other contributors.
All in all, ‘Absu’ is a more than solid return and successfully manages to build on the Absu legacy. After such a long absence the concern might have been that the best fans of the band could hope for was a merely ‘worthy’ album, one fit to sit alongside its predecessors but destined to be no more than a footnote in the Absu discography. However, with ‘Absu’ McGovern and his three new companions have managed to record an album that will in all likelihood vie for equal airtime with ‘Tara,’ especially with songs the calibre of ‘13 Globes,’ ‘Those Of The Void Will Re-Enter’ and ‘Sceptre Command.’
4.1/5 – DBM ::: 18/01/09