Absu - _Tara_
(Osmose, 2001)
by: Gino Filicetti (9.5 out of 10)
Blown away, enthralled, enraptured, entranced, enamored -- how many more useless adjectives need I spew forth to express my thoughts of this album? Admittedly, upon first listen I had my doubts regarding Absu's latest foray into aural annihilation, but I must admit, a thorough regimen of repeated listens has thoroughly cast away any and all doubt.

The album opens with the title track "Tara", a name used in homage to the ancient Irish capital of the Celtic High Kings. This track consists of a bagpipe solo by Sir Don Shannon that begins our journey into the most complex and daring album ever unleashed by the Cythraul Klan known as Absu. The bagpipes give way to the explosive thrash frenzy that we have come to know -defines- Absu. "Pillars of Mercy", while very Slayer-like in its execution, is distinctly Absu. This tale of war and valor quickly gives way to "A Shield With an Iron Face", which continues the tale of bloodlust and honour. The phenomenal drum work of Sir Proscriptor Magickus McGovern really begins to stand out on this track as the incessant double bass can be felt deep within the chest.

The fourth track on Tara, "Manannan", begins very slow and brooding. Again, Slayer's "Raining Blood" comes to mind here. As the brooding grows, a climax is imminent which bursts forth fast and furious and begins the tale of this mythological "shape-changing" god of sea and air. The careful observer will remember that "Manannan" first appeared on Absu's last album, _In the Eyes of Ioldanach_ [CoC #35]. This version is far superior to the last, after having gone through a more rigorous production and better overall execution.

Next comes "The Cognate House of Courtly Witches Lies West of County Meath". Quite a mouthful for a song title, but actually 100% factual -- as attested to by two -very- reliable sources who recently made a pilgrimage to the fabled land of Tara and visited the Cognate House. Musically, this track is an unrelenting sonic attack, but like all of the tracks on this album, the quality of the musicianship and the anti-monotony of the songwriting make it as amazing to behold as the next and the next and the next. "She Cries the Quiet Lake" quickly arrives and includes some vocal help from a mysterious figure named Masthema Mazzaqim. This fable is inspired by a ninth century Irish poem of an awe-inspiring female presence secretly beheld by the side of a lake.

Bringing an end to Phase One of this album (entitled "Ioldanach's Pedagogy"), we have "Yrp Lluyddawc", a very dark and ominous piece composed and played by Proscriptor alone on a VC3 Analog Synthesizer. This atmospheric piece does its job by sending chills down the spine with the fierce alien sounds that lay trapped in the mind of a genius madman, until now...

Phase Two, "The Cythraul Klan's Scrutiny", begins with "From Ancient Times (Starless Skies Burn to Ash)". The beginning of the song brings to mind a lot of Absu's early work with its facade of poor production, but quickly gives way to the clean yet fierce production employed on the rest of this disc. The drumming begins at a breakneck pace which doesn't let up one iota throughout the duration of this track. Quickly transitioning into the ninth track, "Four Crossed Wands", we have upon us a track dealing with Crowley-esque Magick and the Court of Wands of Tarot fame. Next up, "Vorago" -- Latin for chasm or abyss -- showcases not only the supreme skin beating prowess of Lord McGovern, but the oft-overlooked guitar genius duo that is Shaftiel and Equitant. With an ever changing tempo and catchy riff after catchy riff, the guitar work on this track and this entire album has no equal in Absu's ten year past.

"Bron (of the Waves)" is a much needed reprise after the preceding aural assault. Against a backdrop of ocean waves crashing into the rocky coast of Ireland, we're presented with an instrumental tune of the most exquisite acoustic guitar. Very reminiscent of Proscriptor's work on _The Venus Bellona_, this track is truly haunting.

Like the bipolar nature of any two opposites, the preceding track immediately gives way to "Stone of Destiny", easily my favourite track on this disc, and the final stunning climax of an intense journey. With vocal help from Sir Ronnie Trent, Proscriptor and Co. proceed to tear through what is easily the catchiest song of all. Never the same in any two parts, yet undeniably the most memorable track on the album, the pace here swings between the breakneck speed of a machine gun to the groovy click of a riff you'll never forget. Regarding the narrated vocal pieces in this song, if I didn't know any better I could've sworn that was King Diamond's voice... but alas, you can't have your cake and eat it too.

The final track, "Tara (Recapitulation)", brings this album full circle as Sir Don Shannon once more graces us with the sounds of the immortal bagpipes. Having come full circle, _Tara_ leaves the listener with a sense of fleetingness and awe. It really seems like only minutes ago the aural assault began and now it is over all too quickly.

Although my score is only a 9.5, my gut feeling is to give this album a 10 out of 10. However, since this is my first review in a LONG time, I'm not going to be that rash. Absu have definitely re-affirmed my long held notion that they are absolutely unrivaled and unparalleled in the entire universe of death, black or thrash metal, and _Tara_ has only served to increase my already limitless worship of the Cythraul Klan.

[Paul Schwarz: "_Tara_ needs time more than most records these days do. And even if you give it a dozen spins, you won't even begin to understand it -- on both a musical and literal level -- until you start reading the lyrics. By the time you begin reading them while you listen to the album -- and every time it finishes wanting to begin it all over again -- you'll be hooked on the extreme, immersing experience listening to _Tara_ can, seemingly inexhaustibly, be."]

[Alvin Wee: "Not quite a simple continuation of the previous full-length, _Tara_ brings things back towards blazing black metal with Absu's trademark occult touch. A near-classic in every sense just as _The Third Storm of Cythraul_ was, deftly blending medieval themes of swashbuckling and sorcery with caustic old-school black metal that just about blows all the newer "retro" bands away. The LP comes in an incredible gatefold with artwork that just slays... all the more reason to get the good ol' vinyl!"]

(article published 12/8/2001)

8/12/2001 P Schwarz Absu: Celtic Carnage
9/14/1997 S Hoeltzel Absu: Across Ages Arcane
9/30/2011 J Carbon 6.5 Absu - Abzu
11/19/1998 A Wasylyk 7 Absu - In the Eyes of Ioldanach
3/16/1997 S Hoeltzel 9 Absu - The Third Storm of Cythraul
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