Written by: EW on 29/10/2009 12:53:13

A review of one of my favourite albums of all time seemed a good idea with Absu’s long-awaited successor to "Tara" finally out this year and as a first European tour in many, many moons is currently in mid-progress (London in a few days for me!), the stock of these American black/thrashers may never have been higher after a tortuous period of inactivity. Long-time band members may have left and record labels may have changed, however above all else, creating an album to follow on from "Tara" is a challenge that would probably take anyone eight whole years in it’s own right, as you will now see why...

Undoubtedly one of the most technically accomplished of all extreme metal classics, "Tara" is like nothing you will have ever heard; forget what you think you know about extreme metal drumming and guitar-playing dexterity, you have not heard anything until you've heard this. Being the very definition of OTT in its execution, "Tara" does nothing by halves. Enigmatic mainman/drummer/vocalist Sir Proscriptor McGovern must have a severe case of ADD; he hyperactively destroys his drums through a combination of truly mind-blowing speed, complex fills and time-signature changes that are so explosive one's attention could easily be detracted from some of the sharpest, most devastating riffs you will ever hear being laid down by a mere human. The dominant riffs of "Pillars Of Mercy" and "Manannán" are astonishingly merciless, worthy of comparison to the likes of Slayer at their very "Reign In Blood" best. However that is not to forget "A Shield With An Iron Face", a song resplendent in it's collaboration between riff and drum, working together in perfect harmony to showcase an attention to detail much greater than one would expect from 'mere' magnificent song-writing skills. Nor should "From Ancient Times (Starless Skies Burn To Ash)" be discarded which arrives with the power and destruction of a herd of wildebeest charging through your living room. How about the whiplash inducing madness of "The Cognate House of Courtly Witches Lies West of County Meath"? You get my point I think.

Despite the unrelenting blackened-thrash speed of "Pillars Of Mercy" and "Manannán" Absu somehow maintain total control, crafting monuments of creative genius played at breakneck speed. This control under the most demanding of self-imposed conditions is akin to that of a machine-gunner spraying a field of men yet only picking out the enemies and never his own men. I can guarantee it will take you a number of listens to begin getting your head around this display.

Perhaps unsurprising given the emphasis on drums and guitar the bass end of "Tara" is a little understated in a wall of sound production job, although it could be argued Absu dig themselves out of this hole with riffs so lavishly played they serve aplenty for a number of albums, not just one. Themes of Celtic mythology dominate McGovern's lyrical output so intensively that a lexicon of terms is provided in the booklet to assist the unaware in the story of Tara played out across this 'concept' album, confirming the aforementioned extraordinary level of detail found right across the album. Key to "Tara"'s 'classic' status and worth as a hallowed 10/10 is the avoidance of repetition in the midst of the unrelenting speed - "Vorago (Spell 182)", for instance, is filled with so many spiraling, proficient riffs that most bands go through an entire career without producing just one to match; "Bron (Of The Waves)" introduces some cathartic acoustic tranquility, leading wonderfully into the classic metal tinged "Stone Of Destiny (...For Magh Slécht And Ard Righ)" where more spectacular musicianship is served with the addition of McGovern's most admirable attempts at King Diamond ball-clenching vocals. Only like all truly great records can a story be told about every song.

Bookended by an atmosphere-drenched bagpipe introduction and outro, "Tara"'s 52 minutes fly by. With closer "Tara (Recapitulation)" and the ceasing of the album's whirlwind of riffs, the lone bagpipe symbolically escorts your battered body and mind from the battlefield, until you press 'play' again to begin asking again: "how the fuck did they do that?".


Download: Manannán, Pillars of Mercy, A Shield With An Iron Face, Vorago (Spell 182)
For The Fans Of: Destruction, Deströyer 666, Melechesh, Slayer
Listen: Myspace

Release date 23.05.2001
Osmose Productions

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