Yesterday, as you may have seen, I spent some time talking about how regionally diverse black metal can be in my review of Italy-based Abhor’s new album Rituale Stramonium. Not wanting to deviate too far from the black metal theme of this week—okay, let’s be real, of most weeks for me—I took this Retrospective opportunity to focus on another region. This time around, I wanted to look at the recent thrash-infused classic out of Texas that is Absu’s Abzu.
I’ll give you a little bit of background since Absu has been around more or less forever. Technically, the band was formed back in 1989 under the name Dolmen, and evolved through a variety of name changes until Absu stuck in 1991. Since then, it’s been quite the ride for the guys out of Plano. After an almost-eight-year gap between albums in the early- and mid-’00s, Absu returned with a self-titled album in 2009, but met with mixed reviews. It seemed like the best days were behind them until they returned in 2011 with Abzu, proving that they could still produce at the level their fans had grown to love.
The music itself is on the brink of insanity, especially early on. Now, I’m sure at least a few of you will hear the intro to “Earth Ripper”—a whirlwind of drums yielding to the most ridiculous, borderline comical shriek from Proscriptor McGovern—and fail to take this all that seriously at the outset. It was something I was guilty of when I first heard this thing. Furthermore, once the leads come in, the sound can be a bit jarring, and the musical style is all over the place. But once you grasp everything that’s going on here from a technical standpoint, you start to realize how impressive this listen is, despite its chaos.
Many of the tracks fall more into the blackened thrash category than the previously mentioned opener; I think of the likes of “Abraxas Connexus” and “Ontologically, It Became Time & Space.” These tracks are a bit more straightforward, but never relinquish the overall intensity of the album, which, as a whole, keeps you somewhat on edge. I can only imagine how good of a time these songs must be live. The only real deviation is the closer, which covers over 14 minutes and a wide range of influences. It really isn’t fair to call it a single track. “A Song for Ea” includes six sections; each one maintaining its own personality and style. It’s here that Abzu moves in an extremely experimental direction—incorporating some more classic black metal leads, an added atmospheric quality, and some absolutely blistering solos…to touch on just a few things. All told, it makes for a rather complex closing.
All told, the album only runs about 36 minutes, with most tracks falling into the three- to five-minute range. But the thing is, while you get through the album relatively quickly, it’s also one you need to go through several times in order to pick up on everything it intends to do. It’s extremely chaotic and there’s more than enough technical talent crammed into this thing; as such, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss at least a few things on the first few listens. The urge to hit the “Repeat All” button will show itself immediately, and the ferocious pace it keeps up throughout only helps that aspect along.
Anyway, that’s more than enough out of me. You get it. This is more good black metal. But I encourage you all to let this thing run a few times through, as it’s sure to catch your attention pretty quickly. Take a listen below…
“Ein Bier… bitte.”