ABSU – An amalgamation of previous styles
With Absu’s latest release ‘Abzu’ due out in early October, Eternal Terror scribe Peter Loftus caught up with the master of mythological occult metal Proscriptor McGovern to get the lowdown.
Tell us about the new album. (It is instantly recognisable as Absu, but there has been some evolution in sound…)
The new album is an amalgamation of previous styles, yet a new one for ABSU’s music. As stated in previous press statements, this record appends dirtier elements of psychedelia and fusion. Lyrically, it descends deeper into Enki’s lower world as well Thelemic and Enochian Magic(k) Systems. I can tell you this album is not a natural progression from previous releases, but a feat of metaphysical conquest and murkiness. Ever since the genesis of the band, the main objective has always been to not stimulate the same album on a musical basis. With Abzu, I can honestly say it musically does not compare to prior releases within our discography, including Tara. However, the new album has lyrical intricacy comparable to Tara, but the themes are completely different. I will say out of all ABSU albums, this one has the "blackest" methodology.
How did the writing and recording process work with you, Ezezu and Vis Crom living so far apart?
I will admit this particular album was the fastest paced, for ABSU, in all areas of creating an album: composition, arrangement, recording and mixing. Ezezu began the writing process with the second and fourth tracks on the album: Circles of the Oath and Skrying in the Spirit Vision, which started in early June of 2010. On June 23, I underwent a back surgery procedure called spinal decompression, which did not allow me to play drums for one month. Between July and December, both Ezezu and Vis Crom composed the remaining tracks, as I arranged the longest piece on the album: A Song for Ea. This album has also been the most challenging as well. The current line-up is scattered all across the United States, so the album was physically written utilizing internet file sharing. We even rehearsed, at times, while communicating via cell phones, so there was limited face-to-face rehearsal time. We rehearsed one week prior to a small American tour supporting Immortal and exactly one week after in preparation for the studio experience. With that being declared, we entered the studio in March, tracked the entire rhythm section, composed the Mellotron/lyrical arrangements and had it mixed by the mid portion of June this year. As usual, we tracked and mixed it at Nomad Recording Studios outside of Dallas and engineering/mixing was handled by J.T. Longoria.
You are well known for tackling esoteric subject matter in your lyrics. Can you tell us a little about the concepts and ideas that you wanted to explore with ‘Abzu’?
The trilogy, which consists of the last album (Absu), the new album (Abzu) and the next album (Apsu) is a mere perception, but Abzu is not a concept album – it is a collection of theorems, which ties into both pieces of artwork which represent the album. The CD cover is basically a continuation from the last, self-titled album. The Abzu is Enki’s shrine and the temple in Eridu; a mythical place where life influencing powers reside and the results are incomprehensible, unfathomable and secretive; a place producing raw materials. The Elder Sigil produces such ambiguities placed in the center of the main pillar. The vinyl cover contains an interpretation of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes because it stimulates right brain responses and arouses intuition, imagination and insight. At this point, my verbal explanation is inadequate, but it gives me a starting point to somewhat explain the Enochian cuneiform implication of ‘V.I.T.R.I.O.L.’ sealed within the rim. There are seven Latin words in the statement. In alchemy, the Below, there are seven metals. In astrology, the Above, there are seven planets. In each of us, there are seven chakras. Taken together, they point to seven levels of action internalized by a concocted philosophy classified as the "Anzu Ceremony." In Sumerian mythology, the Anzu Bird is a divine storm-bird and the personification of the southern wind/thunder clouds. This demon, thirty-three percent man/thirty-three percent eagle/thirty-three percent lion, stole the "Tablets of Destiny" from Enlil and hid them on an apex. In conclusion, this is why the tornado appears to lift the seal of vitriolistic nous.
What compels you to write about the occult and ancient history?
Beginning at the age of twelve, I started delving into hallucinogenic/mind-altering substances, which lead me into Ordo Templi Orientis, (O.T.O.) Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Thelemic Magic(k), Enochian Magic(k), Tasseomancy and Necromancy. After discovering the Cthulhu Mythos and the Book of Eibon, this too led to my fascination with Sumerian and Mesopotamian mythology. After the release of ABSU’s debut album, Barathrum: VITRIOL, I then became beguiled by the tracing of our ancestral attributions, (mainly Scotch/Irish) which formulated the lyrical conceptions of Celtic lore; heavily engrossed on all albums up to Tara. As far as useful texts, there are too many to mention, but all of the Typhonian Trilogies by Kenneth Grant have always been a favorite inspiration of mine.
You are a fan of progressive and psychedelic music. Of course these elements exist in Absu – but where does the frenetic energy and aggression come from?
Thelema, Enochian Magic(k) and my maniacal mind.
Once again Absu have been through line up changes from one album to the next. What happened to Aethyris?
Aethyris relocated to Oslo and joined former label mates Pantheon I. It was a mutual decision between both parties, as he departed ABSU on an extremely optimistic note. On numerous occasions, he is missed because not only is he a noble musician, but still a great comrade of mine. However, I will state the fact of being reduced down to trio has tightened our live performances into a frenzied execution.
You’ve been an iconic drummer in the extreme metal scene for over a decade now. Can you tell us a little about the gear you use, your practice regime and any tips you might have for those learning the craft? What drummers did you learn most from as a teen?
Thank you for your complimentary words. I am always alternating different brands of drum kits, as I like to discriminate my playing a bit per release. For the newest album, I used a Tama Artstar, Evans heads, Sabian/Soultone cymbals, Vic Firth sticks (7A) and Pearl Demon Pedals. I practice as much as I possibly can, but I don’t practice as much as I use to. There was a specific time period (1992-2004) where I physically rehearsed every day, in one fashion or the other, every day for twelve years. Today, I feel it is most crucial to physically stay in shape, as I jog ten miles per week, which is broken down to two miles per day. (3.25 Km) I began playing at the age of seven and some of my personal favourites back in the day were Phil Collins, Bill Bruford, Robert Wyatt, Billy Cobham, Buddy Rich, Stewart Copeland, Carl Palmer, Christian Vander, Ventor, Lombardo, Etc.
What other projects are you involved in at the moment?
None. I am currently committed to one band and that is ABSU. Being involved in numerous musical outlets strips away the focus of the main band, which I completely want to avoid.
It is rumoured that Absu’s next release ‘Apsu’ (which will complete the cycle) will be your last. Is there any truth in this? If so, why and what comes next?
The term "rumoured" is the key word here. If that is the case, then I will feel like I have fulfilled and accomplished all of my objectives with ABSU. It may continue, but then again, it may not. If not, then I have plans to devise a new band, which I already have the name and songs selected for a debut album. Nonetheless, it should be an interesting chain of events.
Those of us lucky enough to catch Absu on their last trip to Europe will be holding their breath for news of a return. What are your plans for touring the latest release?
Proscriptor: We definitely have plans for a European excursion in April of next year and yes, Dublin is on the itinerary! I am very much looking forward to it indeed.
If Absu could play live with any three bands from any era, who would you choose and why?
This is a gruelling question to answer, but off the top of my head, it would be Absu, Kreator, Sodom and Destruction all on the same bill. I guess the reason being is because those three particular acts played a major role of influence (back in the day starting out) and I think it would be a mark of respect. Of course, I could have mentioned a vast amount of 70s bands, but it would not make sense in this day and age.