Author: BD Joyce
- Artist: Absu
- Album: The Sun Of Tiphareth
- Year of Release: 1995
- Country: USA
- Label: Osmose Productions
- Format: Jewelcase CD
- Catalogue Number: OPCD 029
The Sun of Tiphareth is Absu’s second album, released in 1995, and is very much a product of its time. With a slightly thin production featuring buzzing treble-heavy guitars and clattering drums, it’s a throwback to the kind of 90s black metal that Osmose absolutely flooded the market with at a time when relatively limited competition emanated from mainstream labels yet to understand the commercial potential of the new underground forms. The only surprise is that Absu hail from Texas, with a sound that leans heavily on European influences. Although the sound itself is not especially startling, the fact that is was generated by an American band in the mid-90s certainly was.
‘Apzu’ kicks things off in fine style, showcasing the various elements of the Absu sound, juxtaposing thrashing black metal, with Celtic melodies and clean female vocals. The interesting rhythmic interplay between the guitars and drums, a feature of Absu’s sound throughout their discography, elevates the composition above many of their more mediocre peers, and demonstrates the value of boasting Proscriptor McGovern as not just their drummer,but unusually, their vocalist and key songwriter. McGovern once reportedly came close to replacing Paul Bostaph in Slayer, but here in his own band, he gives a tour de force performance behind the kit, and indeed the mic.
The rest of the record, aside from a short atmospheric keyboard interlude, is an unrelenting barrage of black / death metal. At times Absu call to mind Celtic Frost with the barreling arrogant riffing of the monstrous album highlight ‘Feis Mor Tir Na N’Og’, and at others early Bathory if only they had incorporated a human drum machine, such as on ‘Cyntefyn’s Fountain’.
As may be apparent from the song and album titles, Absu have a fairly unusual thematic and lyrical approach. While esoteric theological and occult themes and metal are frequently comfortable bedfellows, Absu choose to combine the predominant Celticisms with Crowleian Satanism and Sumerian mythology in a somewhat bewildering combination. Although these concepts may not hang together as a coherent belief system, it is difficult not to admire the completeness of Absu’s bizarre vision and depth of their imagined worldview, and it undoubtedly adds a layer of intrigue to an already compelling proposition. Not unlike Melechesh (probably the nearest musical comparison, and a band that McGovern briefly joined), and even Nile, Absu often bring the influences to bear musically, which adds a welcome dimension to music that occasionally threatens to be little more than a collection of riffs and tempo changes.
If there is a criticism to be levelled at what is a frequently enjoyable album, it is the fact that the songwriting ultimately fails to match the obvious ambition of musicians that have the skill to execute almost anything they compose. The Sun Of Tiphareth is labyrinthine in scope, but not as sophisticated as one imagines Absu thought it could be. Transitions between riffs are generally perfunctory, and not infrequently, the band pile riffs atop one another while failing to develop some of the ideas with the most significant potential – the brilliant duelling riff that occupies the first section of the closing title track being the foremost example. It is, however, never less than an intriguing early milestone in the developing career of a superb band who would truly hit their stride in the albums to follow.