Better Than: Most black metal.
“Brooklyn, New York, we have arrived at this town of destiny! Good evening!”
These words by Absu drummer Proscriptor McGovern (a.k.a. Russley Randell Givens) were the final ones spoken last night at Saint Vitus after a 90 minute set of pulverizing extreme metal from Dallas, Texas. It was the second of two nights the band had dominated the venue, and they seemed to want to leave a lasting impression (more like a scar) on everyone there. Mission accomplished.
The smell of incense burning atop the bass and guitar amps wafted through the room, setting a mystical mood before a single note was played. As the three-piece, all of whom wore warrior-like armbands, took the stage, McGovern sat at the kit in a state of reverie, as though preparing to summon the “magicks” championed on the band’s website. McGovern also works a streak of black makeup across his eyes and a headset microphone (a “Madonna” mic, if you like), enabling him to share vocal duties with bass player Ezezu (Paul Williamson). His high-pitched, blood-curdling squeals were a wonderful terror to behold.
About four songs into the set, the contents of a drink sailed over the audience. (Or was it sweat from Ezezu’s soaking wet hair?) I’d thought that the Vitus crowd could never have been more frenzied than they were for Suffocation last week. I was wrong. The pit of bodies swirled with an intensity so severe that it was sustainable only for spurts at a time; it was like everyone scared themselves back into civilized behavior after every thirty-some seconds of chaos because, if they’d kept up the crazy, someone was going to be killed.
Absu’s metal is hard to describe because it criss-crosses so many subgenres. There are occult and folklorish themes, and McGovern and Ezezu deliver screeching vocals a la black metal, but the music is (forgive me) much more exciting than the usual black metal drone.
What’s most bothersome about so much of black metal is that, were it not for the tremolo guitar picking, the songs would often sound rudimentary. Imagine all those tremolo-picked notes being played as single, sustained notes instead. You’d be left with doom metal and a drummer going batshit for no reason. Fast picking does not a complex song make. Granted, there are exceptions to this–for instance, anything involving Colin Marston. But, I digress…
Back to Absu. There’s definitely some Dallas thrash going on in the speed and in the licks. Which brings me to guitarist Vis Crom (Matt Moore), about whom I must say: who the heck is this monster?! Strangely stoic yet charismatic–and unbelievably fast–Crom performed without cracking a smile once. Besides a rare, fleeting snarl, he kept a somber expression, even between songs, and played with such focus it seemed almost as though he was unaware of the audience, as though he was tossing his enormous mane of hair back and forth simply because the song required it. Forget mere tremolo picking: this guy’s got hummingbirds for hands.
Bands from out of town seem to want to leave their mark when they pass through New York. (When Lamb of God played the Roseland last year, singer Randy Blythe said to me they always try to put on a great show in New York because “the press is here.” Sounded strange because there’s press everywhere, but I kind of understood what he meant.) So, Absu, allow me to confirm for you that you have indeed “arrived at this town of destiny.” Hope to see you again soon.
Overheard: “Smoke on the Water!”
Critical Bias: Y’all should know by now.
Random Notebook Dump: Is Texas occult metal a thing? Venomous Maximus, anyone?