Absu - Barathrum V.I.T.R.I.O.L.
Osmose Productions
Black Metal
10 songs (46:48)
Release year: 1993
Osmose Productions
Reviewed by Crims
Archive review

Though their most recent release was 2001’s Tara, which completed ‘the trilogy’, Absu have a modest back catalogue that is worth checking out for Black Metal fans. Barathrum V.I.T.R.I.O.L. was Absu’s first full-length release after two demos and an EP and even though it’s not as polished or as intricate as later releases, it is still a very solid release that should not be overlooked.

Absu kind of tread the middle-line of Black Metal. Their production isn’t as raw as the Graveland or Judas Iscariot’s of the world, but they're not as polished or as crushingly produced as newer Immortal releases either. Barathrum, perhaps because of its moderate age, is the most raw of Absu's releases but from a musical standpoint it is still similar to their newer releases. What Absu does well on the majority of this release is successfully blend aggressive and fast Black Metal with a Death/Thrash mentality with more traditional Black Metal riffs that provide an appropriate amount of melody and atmosphere. There aren’t really any completely Death or Thrash riffs on display during the fast sections, but the way the fast sections are structured from a rhythm and drum style standpoint there mine as well be. Here in lies the problem with this release as well. Occasionally the riffs and atmosphere just get lost in the blast of noise that every instrument creates. What was once a mildly atmospheric song that you could still head bang to turns into a mish-mash of aggressiveness. This aspect of Absu’s music would be almost completely rectified on later releases, but as far this one goes it only shows up in a couple of songs. The majority of this release is filled with a clever mix of atmosphere and aggression that doesn’t sound out of place or misconceived, though.

Another highlight of Absu’s debut, as is the case with any Absu release, is the drumming. The drums have an excellent tone and mix to them and if it were any other way Proscriptor’s maniacal drum performance would be lost. There are a lot of talented drummers in Black Metal but because of the nature of the music their abilities are rarely shown to their full extent (Fenriz is a perfect example of this). This is not the case at all with Absu, however. Proscriptor is intensly fast and precise with incredible fills and head-spinning double bass. That Thrash and Death Metal mentality seeps its way into the drums more than anything and even though there are common-place Black Metal blasts, there is plenty of double bass and Thrash runs. Meanwhile the lyrics are very good as well. Dealing with the occult and various mythos (primarily Celtic) Proscriptor’s lyrics are both poetic and intelligent, but you’re going to have to read the booklet to get anything out of them since you’re certainly not going to hear anything from listening to the music. The vocals come in two varieties. There is the rapsy, shrill stylings of Shaftiel and the more mid-range stylings of Proscriptor. Shaftiel populates most of this release and he is the weaker of the two. It's almost as if his vocals are just spewed forth without much thought to their place within the rhyhtm structure during the faster tempos. Meanwhile Proscriptor proves he's not only an amazing drummer but an above average Black Metal vocalist as well. Unforunately, he only appears on a couple songs. The guitars are well played for the most part and have a nice chainsaw styled tone to them. Keyboards also dot a couple of songs with laid-back, low-key, mid-paced synth.

For most people the version that is available these days comes with three bonus tracks. They are all live tracks featuring one song from this release, and two from other releases. The sound on these live tracks comes with the Death, Live In LA, style of no frills, raw live mix. Hardcore fans of the band will like the bonus tracks a lot. The live sound is even rawer than the studio sound and the riffs become even more undistinguishable, but for the majority of Absu’s fan base they are nice additions. Bonus marks for picking The Coming Of War, for one of the live tracks, since it is probably one of my favorite Absu songs.

If you’re new to Absu this is a great place to start and keep in mind that the band gets better with age. Strangely enough, most Black Metal specialist (or elitist, depending on your point of view) hold this release in very high regard; higher than their new releases. For the casual or general Metal fan though, there are noticeable flaws, but they are overcome with a strong mix of very catchy traditional Black Metal parts and violent aggressive parts. The drum performance and lyrics are added bonuses that just sweeten the package.

Killing Songs :
Descent To Acheron, An Equinox Of Fathomless Disheartenment, The Thrice Is Greatest To Ninnigal, Fantasizing To The Third Of The Pagan Vision
Crims quoted 84 / 100
Other albums by Absu that we have reviewed:
Absu - Abzu reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
Absu - Absu reviewed by James and quoted 87 / 100
Absu - Tara reviewed by James and quoted 94 / 100
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