This whole North African/Middle Eastern metal thing then? Melechesh, Nile, Orphaned Land, and Absu are probably some of the bigger names in this culturally diversified form of metal. Yet, despite the rich musical history of the areas in question, there's nothing in this genre that really moves extreme metal forward; strip the sonics of the sparse use of traditional instruments, and you're left with some very generic sounding songs with a few middle-eastern pentatonic scales thrown in for authenticity. Absu probably rely the least on these sounds; possibly because, like Nile, they don't originate from these regions; they're from Texas. Regardless, Absu came to my attention a few years back when I accidentally discovered 'Tara'; a terrific album of technical metal which reminded me, in some part, of Nocturnus. Since then they have peddled their wares, with a slight Sumerian twist, in a rather plodding fashion; no surprises, no risks, and almost no excitement. There's nothing particularly wrong with what they do, but it's a style of music that's been lacking a bright future for some time now. So, here we are greeted by latest release 'Abzu', and I have to wonder more so what relevance Absu has nowadays. The plodding, however, is largely out and it's impeccably played, with a particular nod to Proscriptor once again for his fabulous drum work, but the writing is a mess. When it's not tied to formula, and it does stray from your typical death metal quite frequently, it's mostly directionless. Only infrequently do flashes of inspiration elevate it; 'Song for EA' in particular stands out - not just for its mammoth run time of nearly fifteen minutes - because all the ideas for the album seem to be in this one song; actually the song appears to be a series of unrelated shorter tracks, making 'Song...' something of a misnomer. I really do want Absu to regain some of the spark that came with their 'Tara' album; maybe I have an undue fondness for it as my introduction to the band. Whatever, 'Abzu' isn't anything more than an example of extreme metal played by people at the top of their skills, yet seemingly bored by the genre. Let's hope they have the impetus on their next album (the already-named 'Apsu') to really show us some genuine progression.
Review by Steve Cowan
10th Oct 2011
1) Earth Ripper
2) Circles of the Oath
3) Abraxas Connexus
4) Skrying in the Spirit Vision
5) Ontologically, It Became Time & Space
6) A Song for Ea
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"When it's not tied to formula, and it does stray from your typical death metal quite frequently, it's mostly directionless. Only infrequently do flashes of inspiration elevate it..."