Album Review: Absu, Absu

[from MadeLoud, July 6, 2009]

It used to be the case that thrash, speed and death metal were a safe haven, a kind of easy way out for any hungry metal outfit looking to make music without exactly exploring music. And for a while, this worked out just fine as many a band turned that unholy triumvirate into heavy metal’s answer to the blues: a de facto harbor against the storm of musical progress.

Over time, much to the dismay of quite a few lesser bands, those three schools of music also took widely divergent turns. Thrash grew complicated; speed grew challenging; death grew into more a matter of philosophy than of venomous anti-life bile, and a lot of bands down the line would find themselves without much of a musical home, leaving behind albums sometimes solid, but mostly void of any real unique identity.

Absu is one of those bands. Absu is one of those albums.

Going straight for the jugular, opener “The Absu of Eridu & Erech” waits exactly two seconds to unleash the vocal venom of lead singer Sir Proscriptor McGovern, railing like an angry reptile over seemingly endless blast beats and quite possibly every metal riff ever written. As an introductory track, it sets the tone quite nicely; almost too nicely, in some ways, as virtually every single track on the disc follows the exact same pattern or possibly straying from it by waiting, say, one (“Ye Uttuku Spells”), thirty (“Night Fire Canonization”) or even sixty seconds (“Amy”) to get to the screaming, blast beats, speed riffs, and so on.

Its excessive employment of heavy metal cliches aside, Absu finds its saving graces not in any one song, per se, but in minute fractions of those songs. Witness the swirling middle of “Ye Uttuku Spells” or the double-time a la Slayer opening “Night Fire Canonization.” The disc is chock-full of these little markers, all standing as proof that Absu is not at all incapable of finding a groove, hook or melody, but that perhaps simply offered those things up as sacrifice to the unholy beings who make this music possible.

When Absu fires on all cylinders, the group becomes quite the excellent heavy metal spectacle. Unfortunately , Absu (the band) finds those moments all too infrequently, rendering the album and its namesake a footnote rather than an exclamation point.