Definitely one of the most characteristic bands within the extreme metal realm, musically and especially conceptually, Absu are one of the more experienced bands growing out of the American underground scene. Since their inception in the early '90s, they've morphed into this luscious beast self-tagged by drummer/vocalist Sir Proscriptor McGovern as "mythological occult speed metal."
Admittedly upon first hearing this Texan trio (which also comprises guitarist Shaftiel and bass player Equitant) on their debut V.I.T.R.I.O.L. and their Sun Of Tiphareth albums respectively, it was somewhat difficult to fully comprehend their distinct edge. Yes they had their own sound, but it was within the smashing Third Storm Of Cythraul and the In The Eyes Of Ioldanach MCD that the band really showed their magic-inducing colours. And with their latest intricate masterpiece, Tara, it seems that Absu are ready to part the Red Sea.
"My whole band wanted to put as much effort into it as possible," begins Proscriptor on the band's most intensely shining monument. "And one of the objectives was to make the most progressive and technical black thrash album we have done to date, and we'll be able to prove that point with Tara."
One of the most frustrating things to Proscriptor in the past was that by out-growing the black metal movement, Absu would slowly let their thrash influences shine through, leading them even moreso to be defined as a "retro-thrash" band. Really though, Absu have too much class and sophistication to their abstract sonic aura to even be considered part of such a movement.
"I've just been hearing other critics in other reviews with this kind of moniker being slapped on to the euphony of Absu and it's nothing we've ever tried to project within our music," says Proscriptor. "Of course there are thrash elements but there are a lot of other elements, black, death, heavy metal and even progressive music. I'm actually a big admirer of bands like Soft Machine, Genesis, King Crimson, Yes and a lot of jazz fusion like Mahavishnu Orchestra and especially the drumming of Bill Bruford, Billy Cobham and Phil Collins. So these influences I think show in a lot of Absu's music, just played at a very fast speed."
Tara is also, easily the best-produced Absu exhibit to date. As Proscriptor says, "this time we took a little different approach in the way the drums, guitars and bass were actually recorded. Something important since we've become more technical and faster is not to use too many effects such as reverb. Another important aspect was to keep all the instrumentation separated and by this the clarity of each song is more presentable. Actually we're about 95% satisfied with it (laughs). I feel like the midrange could have been dropped a bit and the lows and the highs could have been boosted more. But I think any musician can say what I'm saying after the release of an album. I don't think anybody is 100% satisfied after the recording is complete, but I just have to express my personal and honest opinion."
Absu have practically had the same line-up since the beginning. But according to Proscriptor, relations with Shaftiel and Equitant go way back before the band was even formed.
"We've all been in association and we've all been comrades ever since we were very young teenagers so we're all on the same plateau as far as common interests and our intellect level. So this trio of Absu is definitely a strong and prominent unit."
What was the metal scene like growing up in Texas?
"Especially in Dallas, not only was thrash metal and the early stages of death metal very prominent but there were a lot of bands from Texas at the time that were very important and also an influence on Absu. And I feel like our clan and our dynasty has carried on what was once back in the mid to late '80s, bands like Morbid Scream, Rigor Mortis, Necrovore, Rotting Corpse, and also bands like Helstar, Devastation, and even Deadhorse. I mean these were very prominent bands back in those days."
With your vast musical taste, are you an admirer of movie soundtracks?
"That's an interesting question. The first one that would come to my mind would be Sorcerer by Tangerine Dream and Rumble Fish by Steward Copland believe it or not, but that's me personally. But I'm very open-minded to several forms of euphonies in music."
Explain then the balance of an Absu album, the music versus lyrics?
"I think the aspects of music and the lyrical concept is based on a 50/50 ratio. The music supports the lyrics and vice versa. That's very important and also the music versus the image, I feel the same way about that as well."
Tara is broken up into two phases. Do these two movements mirror each other or is it more of a call and response?
"It's like a call and response. Tara is an exalted empyreal hill in a county called Meath Ireland and that's a place where high kings and tyrants once reigned in Celtic mythology. So that's why it's important that it's the third and final development of the particular trilogy for Absu. And the way I look at Tara, I don't look at it only as a concept album. It's actually literary science, it's an exhibit of pagan history and antiquity. My determination was to balance magic, mythology and mysticism in a Celtic tongue as the album is presented in a chronicle assembly dividing the exhibition into two phases, Iolonach's Pagodogy and The Cythraul Clan Scrutiny."
The themes and concepts that Absu have presented with their albums are usually not the themes of your regular metal release, almost making the concepts too thought-absorbing for the average metalhead. How can a listener absorb Absu's theories?
"With Tara, there are a lot of intricate words in the English vocabulary but there are a lot of foreign terms especially like Irish Gaelic terms and also mythological figures and characters that are used within the plot of Tara. But what I have done, that I don't think a lot of bands have done before, was that I've actually included a four page glossary/dictionary at the back of the CD booklet so the listener can refer to the back of the CD booklet for a clean definition of what it all means."
How did you get into such themes and concepts?
"Probably when I was around thirteen or fourteen, being able to experiment with hallucinogenic substances like LSD, which really opened the metaphysical doors to my mind. I truly believe that. I was able to obtain knowledge at a very faster rate by doing this and such things as ancestry, mythology, science, numerology, mathematics and the occult were things that interested and fascinated me."
So how would you define the character of Proscriptor? Is it more that just a mere alter ego?
"I feel that there are two sides of me and I think I can say this on a satirical basis because I am of a Geminian spirit and that is the sign of the twins. So I do look at it as an alter ego, being that there is two of me instead of one."