Diving The Chasms Of The Apzu
Story online since: 15.03.2013 / 14:07:36
Loppen, Copenhagen. 2013-03-06.
Defying the chill of this early spring evening, about a hundred souls have gathered at the venue Loppen, located in the infamous free-town Christiania where the clouds of dopesmoke float heavily, to witness the return to Scandinavian soil of the pioneers of mythological occult metal: ABSU.
After a slight misunderstanding, my interview with cheif esoteric and legendary percussionist/vocalist Proscriptor McGovern earlier in the afternoon has been postponed until the evening – the results of this meeting, foiled by nerves and perhaps one beer too many on my part, will be presented before the Easter feasts. So, escaping the outside cold as the night falls upon the glowing embers of the pot-dealers, we are first greeted by the opening act, SOLBRUD. Whereas this Copenhagen quartet most likely wants their name to be understood as "Solar bride" or something similar, it is hard for a Swede not to interpret it as "sun babe" – visions of rich pretty girls dancing on Mediterranean beaches to hideous house music comes to mind – but whatever their moniker entails, this is nothing but black metal. Recently formed, they have one album behind them, which they seem to perform in its totality, over the course of about 45 minutes. Playing that long as an opener is pretty steep, and in the end it's not difficult to be somewhat tired by their performance, but basically, they pull off a good show. Musically they relate to the friendlier, droning melodic type of black metal that has become known as "Cascadian", heralded by Wolves in the Throne Room: it's raw and harsh, but never really aggressive or oppressive. A sense of melancholic desolation flows through their music, promptly expressed by the harrowing rasping screams of the vocalist. I most of all enjoy their unpretentious style – band shirts and greasy hair, no spikes or make-up at all – but in the end it is drawn out too long and the droning facelessness of it all starts getting on my nerves. Keep it to three tracks the next time.
Anyway, openers out of the way and nothing more upholding the eager crowd from the main purpose of this evening. Uniformed in warriorlike leather wristbands and dark make-up the power-trio that makes up the second coming of ABSU marches to the stage at the sound of the acoustic piece from "Song of Ea", the epic that rounds up their latest album (second of a thematic trilogy based on the concept of the Abzu). As it fades out, four knells announce the track "Apzu", lifted from their second album "Sun of Tiphareth", and with it we are thrown into a 75+ minute long whirlstorm of mythological occult mayhem. Anyone who is familiar with ABSU's alchemical fusion of black, death and thrash metal will comprehend how intense their music has the potential of becoming when performed on stage, and I have rarely witnessed a more impressive and potent realization of immanent potential. The rupturously eager crowd - fists banging the air, necks snapping, throats ripped to shreds – are lifted by the nape and dragged away on a tornado-rollercoaster ride, from the Celtic highlands down along the Qabbalah tree right into the Sumerian primordial churn, and straight up again. The Cythraul Klan – string-benders Vis Crom and Ezizu (who also handles the main vocals), commanded percussively and vocally by the aforementioned McGovern – are in total control of all the musical facets of the Abyss, and holds the entire crowd in their hand from start to finish.
All the six albums (and some other material) from the two past decades – debut "Barathrum VITRIOL" turns 20 this year – are represented this evening. Despite the long journey ABSU has made, from the slow and diabolically melodic black/death metal of the first two albums, through the barbaric black thrash attacks and esoteric theses of the late 90's, to the suggestively progressive leanings of this 2nd era commenced in 2009, on stage all the impressions and expressions come together as a larger, more massive whole. The individual performances are, save a few technical challenges (not even the Cythraul Klan can withstand a failing battery), not just practically flawless, but also dynamic, powerful and energetic. Proscriptor is probably one of the greatest drummers in all forms of heavy music: not based solely on technicality – there are surely those who can hit more drums in less time – but on the man's passion, energy, focus and attack is complete, with flow and concentration to the playing style that I've never seen or heard in metal at all (at least not since Czral fell). And most importantly: he hits hard. At times the direct sound of the snare bleeds past the monitors – he hits hard as hell, and you see that he means every beat of it. Vis Crom and Ezizu disappear into a flurry of whirling hair – the latter while not handling the major part of the vocals, the former apparently performing with one guitar what they needed two guitarists in the 90's. ABSU on stage is as they are in studio: virile passion and skillful equilibrism; there's nothing to do but surrender before the attack of these Highlander Tyrants.
I am sure that many would write off Proscriptor's stage persona as histrionic buffoonery, but the possession in his approach cannot be disregarded. When he rises up from behind his kit to spit out lessons in the numerology behind the title "Vorago (Spell 182)", or presents "Amy" with a rabbling harangue in a language I'm confident few living persons actually understand outside of certain secret societies – or why not when he simply howls a maddened laughter for minutes on end – it's hard not to believe him. ABSU is a band that interprets, channels and understands deep esoteric knowledge and experience at a level few are able, or dare, to approach. The ancient waters of the Abyss flows the veins of the Cythraul Klan, and I pity those who do not understand the grandeur in that. Never before have I experienced a 75+ minutes long concert pass by so swiftly and satisfyingly.
All photos by Septikemi.