Review Summary: US Black Metal, if that makes sense, at its best.
People are reluctant to call this band black metal
as they are from the US, but they do the form justice and sound more legitamately black metal than many of the Norwegian acts nowadays...
Tara is their last (unless they have a reunion) album and because of this, it has the most tolerable production. I understand that in old school black metal it was not fashionable to have good production, but many of Absu's earlier releases have absolutely no low-end to them and it makes it a difficult listen.
starts out with a self-titled intro with bag pipes and then quickly gets into the first real track Pillars of Mercy
which starts in classic death/black metal style (you can actually hear the hair swinging in a circle to the double-bass (not actually))
Absu fires through 11 tracks of fierce "Norwegian-style" black metal - the tempo usually remaining at a very rapid pace, though Absu uses a more "pogo" beat than blast-beat. This works very well for their sound even if it is a departure from the genre norm (and probably a big reason why people are reluctant to lump these guys into the black metal category). This element also gives Tara
, more so than their other works, a clear "punk" influence - akin to Carpathian Forest
or Impaled Nazarene
The guitar work on Tara
is exceptional - particulary on A Shield with an Iron Face
and Four Crossed Wands
- They storm through non-stop rapid-fire riffs with more single-string noodling than power chords. This album is short on lead breaks, but one doesn't tend to miss it much as many of the songs are so thoroughly composed, they don't seem to need it.
The drums are well mixed, which is again, a rarity for Absu. Proscriptor sounds like he is hitting the drums with sledgehammers - it sounds as though there are no triggers being used here (though probably on the kick drum), but it never seems to become a wash. The bass is mixed a bit low (as always), but there is at least more low end in the mix. Absu's vocals have always struck a chord with me and they are excellent on this album as well - some may criticize the high-pitched singing vocals that come in occasionally, but this adds to the atomosphere and makes it sound all the more "old school." For the most part, the vocals are a competant black-metal "croak," and are fairly more distinguishable than most.
Absu has always been one of those bands that were full of potential, and I was always quick to snatch up their latest release to see if they have finally realized it. This being their last official album, I can say safely that it is their finest hour and definately worth a listen. The exception to this is the track Absu had on the soundtrack to Gummo
: The Gold Torques of Ulaid
Stand out tracks:
Pillars of Mercy
A Shield with an Iron Face
She Cries the Quiet Lake