Absu seems to be a band that you either get or
you don't. There is enough to appreciate to lure in a lot of people, but yet just as much to repulse them as well. With their
second full-length album, The Sun of Tiphareth, the band moves farther away from their death metal roots and adopts
more of a Scandinavian black metal sound. Released in March 1995, on Osmose Productions, it would appear that they were a
little late to the party. However, as far as American black metal bands go, they were among the first.
The very first song, “Apzu”, does
well to illustrate all that is right and all that is wrong with this album, right off the bat. This lengthy track goes past
the eleven-minute mark and features a lot of variation. The fast drumming and cold tremolo melodies are done very well, though
there is an odd mixture of '80s riffs as well. The transitions are not exactly seamless, but not bad. Where things really
become annoying are the horrible attempts at recreating King Diamond's classic vocal style. Even worse, Absu had the nerve
to utilize horrible passages of what sound like female vocals. These instances completely kill the momentum that the song
had previously built up and do not fit in at all. There are moments where things seem to take on an epic feeling, but the
song never realizes its full potential.
“Feis Mor Tir Na N'og (Across the North
Sea to Visnech)” is next. It begins a bit slower than the previous song, but speeds up over time. The vocal approach
is done right, with a torn-throat sound that suits the music. Unfortunately, the song suffers from the same inconsistent songwriting
that plagued the first track. It could have done without the keyboards, also, as they really do not fit with the more old
school parts. The faster sections are where this truly shines, with memorable tremolo riffs passing through all-too-briefly.
This is followed by “Cyntefyn's Fountain”,
which is shorter and a bit more to the point. One major complaint is that the drums are far too overactive, with too many
random fills taking the attention away from the guitar riffs. That has always been an issue with Absu, and is no different
here. It is also worth noting that the production makes this even worse, by burying the guitars a bit and pushing the percussion
too high in the mix. This song features a half-decent riff that is reminiscent of old Bathory but, ultimately, goes nowhere.
“A Quest into the 77th Novel” continues
the trend of too many pointless riff changes, abandoning ideas that were doing well before having their legs cut out from
under them. Thankfully, a few tremolo riffs manage to cut through the muddy sound and rise above the ever-dominant drumming,
but these ideas are rarely expanded upon. More acoustic parts and female vocals kill the song's momentum and add another layer
of cheesiness to this already failing record.
“Our Lust for Lunar Plains (Nox Luna Inlustris)”
is a pointless instrumental. It seems someone just got a new Casio for Christmas and could not be persuaded to leave it at
home, though it adds absolutely nothing to the album, especially as a lone track. More pseudo-goth nonsense to kill time.
This is followed by “The Coming of War”,
which is a cover of a Morbid Scream tune. I am not too familiar with the original, but I have to wonder if it utilized the
same horrid effects as this rendering. After a doomy intro, the song picks up speed and features a better mix than the majority
of the rest of the album. The vocals sound far more evil and the song possesses a darker atmosphere than the original ones
on this L.P.
Finally, the title track arrives to save the listeners
from such mediocrity. This is the true highlight of the album, featuring the most coherent songwriting and some of the best
riffs. It progresses from sort of an old school gallop to something much faster and more vicious. Distant tremolo melodies
add a sense of depth, as the music straddles the line between '80s and '90s. The drums are still too loud, during certain
sections, but it fails to ruin the song as in some other cases. The clean vocal sections with the brief drum solos could have
been done without, and the song could have been a little shorter; however, this is still the best song on the album.
The Sun of Tiphareth is a record filled with countless flaws
and it is a wonder that this band possesses the reputation that it does, as each album seems to be a mixture of good and horrible
ideas. As for this one, they would have done well to leave out all of the cheesy goth parts and to focus on finding a better
balance between their '80s roots and their Scandinavian aspirations. This is only recommended for those with a lot of patience.
(12 Aug. 2012)