Absu – Abzu

By Kyle Harcott

This second release in the planned “Abyssic Trilogy” once again finds Absu ascending their rightful throne as respected sires of the USBM scene. But where 2009’s Absu took a couple of solid attentive listens before it clicked for me, Abzu brings a rampageous immediacy from the start – the album had my throat in its teeth right from those initiating snare-pops on ‘Earth Ripper’.

And with its helter-skelter tempo and riffery, and unforgettably over-the-top, King-Diamond-falsetto wails, ‘Earth Ripper’ is the perfect opening track for Abzu, and probably the best opening track, full-stop, that I’ve heard in a long time. The song flawlessly marries inhuman black metal punishment with a classic-heavy-metal vibe that is instantly ear-catching. While Absu’s music has always stood apart, it’s downright fascinating to hear them come up with something as –yes- catchy as ‘Earth Ripper’. The song’s hooks lodge themselves in your brain from the get-go. Third track ‘Abraxas Connexus’ shares similar “classic” traits, coming on strong with a blistering, double-bass-heavy gallop.

Still, a couple of subtle nods to the oldschool aside, the rest of the album is pure Absu – intricate, majestic black metal that sports a signature venom and intensity unlike any other band. There is an urgency present on Abzu that didn’t make itself so prevalent on the first album in the trilogy. Perhaps that’s because the album’s a frightfully fast listen. Even with the final, fourteen-minute track split into six suites, the entire disc clocks in at thirty-six minutes – just enough time for the damage to be done and not stick around long enough to chance getting stale.

Meanwhile, Sliver-shard riffs of severely black psychedelia manage to pierce their way into songs like ‘Circles of the Oath’ and ‘Skrying in the Spirit Vision’ alongside incredibly breakneck, start-stop riffery that would surely border on progressive if it wasn’t so damn aggressive.

The production stands out, far louder and rawer than on the previous record. Everything is pushed right up front with no room for subtlety, not that any was called for anyway. Proscriptor’s drums are of particular note as they absolutely detonate across the disc, and they’re treated in the furious mix like the lead instrument they ought to be. It goes without saying, but McGovern is a fearsome drummer, and his playing here is once again absolutely top-notch.

Abzu is also the first recorded work of the Proscriptor/Ezuzu/Vis Crom lineup, and with the guitarist and bassist writing the majority of the music on the record, it appears a fresh songwriting perspective has propelled Absu into stellar territory, perhaps their most august release to date.

Without doubt, one of the best records I have heard this year.

(Candlelight USA)


Abzu will be released on October 11th. You can pre-order it here

Sean is the founder/publisher of Hellbound.ca; he has also written about metal for Exclaim!, Metal Maniacs, Roadburn, Unrestrained! and Vice.