Absu: The Full Interview

Posted March 5, 2009 in
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Check out the March 2009 feature on Absu here! SLUG: Can you give a short summation of the history of ABSU, how the band got started, what made you decide to base the lyrical themes on Sumerian, Mesopotamian and Celtic mythology?
Proscriptor: To fully understand the musical mystery and mythology of the band, one has to dig deep into the roots of its complex gathering of artists and musicians. Only then is one prone to discover that ABSU are not only in it for the music, but for the advancement of its art. Our lyrical content is based on such themes as: Sumerian/Mesopotamian/Celtic mythology, Goetic/Chaos/ Enochain Magic(k), Thelemic Mysticism, Metaphysics, Necromancy and Barbarism. The birth began under the name Dolmen in 1989, which was founded by Shaftiel and Equitant Ifernain. By 1990, the band had taken the name Azathoth, but by 1991 had changed it once again, this time to ABSU releasing the Immortal Sorcery single followed by its debut demo Return to the Ancients. The Temples of Offal 7” EP was recorded in late 1991, but saw the departure of early members, guitarist Gary Lindholm and drummer Daniel Benbow - this opened the door for Daviel Athron Mystica and myself to join the band in 1992. The result of this amalgam was the debut album Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. Released in 1993, the album saw the short-lived addition of keyboardist Black Massith who, along with Mystica, left the fold shortly thereafter leaving Shaftiel and Equitant to cover both bass and guitar duties. And thus the era of ABSU as a trio was at hand. The Sun of Tiphareth followed in 1995 and assured the band had not suffered from any of the usual pitfalls associated with a sophomore release. The truth was quite the contrary in fact, which lead to successful touring throughout North America and Europe. For live performances, we recruited Mezzadurus (a.ka. Chris Gamble) of Bloodstorm/Goreaphobia fame for bass and co-vocalist assistance until 2002. The band’s next effort was 1997’s The Third Storm of Cythraul, which quickly followed this up with the In the Eyes of Ioldanach EP in 1998. What followed that was the creation of what was easily the pinnacle of our career as a three-piece, 2001’s conceptual album Tara. That year also incidentally saw us recruit a new second guitarist, Kashshapxu, as the band was primed to take mythological occult metal to the masses. However, in early 2002, Equitant left due to musical differences and during this period I auditioned for Slayer, who eventually went with their original drummer Dave Lombardo. Afterwards, I severely injured my hand in an accident, which required surgery and several months of healing and rehabilitation. By the time I was ready to perform again, Shaftiel no longer had any interest in the band while Kashshapxu also left due to musical differences. The future of ABSU was for the first time, uncertain. I then put ABSU on hold and decided to work on other projects. In 2005, Equitant and I decided to put together a collection of rare, live and unreleased ABSU recordings and released it under the title Mythological Occult Metal: 1991-2001. With the band officially on hiatus, I worked on other projects including Equimanthorn (with Equitant and members of The Soil Bleeds Black), Proscriptor (my own project of neo-folk/classic rock fused music), and Starchaser Network (with Equitant and Victorious; electronic art/rock band). Additionally, and as many of you are aware of, I was the drummer/lyricist for Melechesh from 1999 to 2004 (as I still contribute lyrics and vocals to this day) and have done session work with numerous bands around the globe. I also have my own record label, Tarot Productions. In May 2007, I made my intentions clear to carry on and reincarnate ABSU by enlisting guitarists Aethyris McKay and Vastator Terrarum to the band. In November 2007, we announced the signing with Candlelight Records for a minimum of three albums and would also release a 7" EP through Relapse Records titled Speed N' Spikes featuring our first new material in seven years. That same month also saw Vastator leave the band, but was instantly replaced by Zawicizuz. In October 2008, we added ex-Panzram member Ezezu as bassist and co-vocalist, after completing the recording of our latest, eponymous-titled album released on February 16th

SLUG: Again in the realm of ABSU’s lyrical content what inspires the lyrics and stories that ABSU’s albums tend to tell, do you base lyrics off of mythology you read about in books etc, basically is there a lot of factual mythology in the lyrics for ABSU?
Proscriptor: Yes and yes.

SLUG: Continuing talk about lyrics here, ABSU’s last three albums were a trilogy. Since my fun promo package for the new album doesn’t come with a lyrics sheet, what are some of the main themes for the new album?
Proscriptor: My idea for a self-titled album was an objective of mine for many years, even before Tara was ideologically drafted. Absu is primarily based upon the meaning of the band moniker: Abyss, a limitless space/bottomless chasm, the fresh underground water of Ea and the Seven Sage’s home or a mythical place producing “secrets.” The songs on Absu discuss Sumerian mythology, Mesopotamian cosmology, Goetia, numerology and antiquated necromancy narrated in various tenses. For example, the song Magic(k) Square Cipher is a numerological song representing the Seal of Saturn and its ruling Sephirah. Amy (no, not a ballad about my wife – her name is Tiamatsu) is a story concerning a prevailing demon to have been an imperative part of the underworld alongside Nergal. Those of the Void Will Re-Enter, lyrically written by Ashmedi of Melechesh, refers to servants of the arcane order, as the “void” represents the Annunaki (Seven Sages) in Sumerian mythology. I have officially taken a lyrical vacation from Celtic lore and my ancestral attributions to pay homage to the Ancient Ones.

SLUG: How would you describe ABSU’s music and concept to someone that has never heard any of ABSU’s music?
Proscriptor: Lyrically, if you were to take Sumerian mythology, Celtic history, Thelema, Goetia and musically combine those elements with Slayer, Soft Machine, King Crimson and Kreator, then you would have a fine representation of what ABSU is all about.

SLUG: Personally, I think ABSU is one of the more appealing and innovative as far as playing music that doesn’t sound like everything else coming from the US metal scene, how do you think ABSU is unique to the US metal scene, and the world metal scene as well?
Proscriptor: ABSU is a recipe of black/death/thrash/heavy metal and progressive music formulated into one unit. The answer: mythological occult metal.

SLUG: Tara was kind of a breakout album for the band, at least to my knowledge in the heavy metal water cooler talk locally and in forums and metal press it seems like that record got the band a lot of attention, I mean it was eight years ago and people still talk about that album. Basically is this thought something that makes sense to you, if so why do you think it was that album?
Proscriptor: Our compositions on Tara were the most complex, intricate and fastest material versus any other ABSU recording. We felt since this was a last chapter of a Celtic trilogy, our mission was to reach the apex of Tara and conquer its three thrones on top as well. Our main objective was to inflict more aggression on that album than any other we’ve ever written. In order to accomplish this mythological feat, we must have been able to execute our instruments with overwhelming power and strength. It’s all about the “mind’s eye” and how we perceive magic(k).
SLUG: There obviously with 8 years from Tara to Absu, there were plenty of expectations growing, and with the internet and basically any album getting leaked (which is a stupid fact regardless) before it gets released a lot of fans have already heard the new record. With the creation of the new album did the band feel like they had to meet some expectation or was it just business as usual?
Proscriptor: There were overwhelmingly big expectations having this new album released nearly eight years after Tara as I truly feel we have delivered a constructive result. Our new label Candlelight, as well as the press that has heard it thus far, were thoroughly impressed upon the first listen. I am not going to sit here and tell you that “this is our best work to date” or “this is a natural progression from Tara,” but I will testify that I am tremendously proud of this album. It is ABSU’s best mix to date and an album I have always wanted to create with this band without any limitations whatsoever.

SLUG: On the subject of internet piracy and the fact that anyone can get music in the digital format now it hurts any band obviously, but in a different sense in my opinion people are missing out on a lot by not actually owning the CD package, I know there is a lot of effort that goes into pressing CDs and LPs (which are actually growing in popularity now) with creating a visually interesting package so on and so forth, how important is it to ABSU to keep the visual packaging aspect of your albums up to the caliber of your past albums?
Proscriptor: Internet piracy is a plague and an unquestionable poison to the music industry. CD/LP design and packaging is the ornamental topping that coats the music and that’s what’s missing with digital downloads in today’s industry. How important is that to me? It is extremely important. For example, are any of you familiar with the first vinyl pressing of Hawkwind’s Space Ritual LP? You want to talk about packaging? That particular sleeve came in a 3x2 panel fold-out, the outer 6 panels being color, the inner 6 panels being monochrome, the discs in psychedelic patterned orange & yellow inner sleeves were folded into this. My point: packaging is beyond important to me, but that’s my personal opinion.

SLUG: ABSU’s artwork and packaging has always been amazing to me, what is the concept for the new album cover, who designed it etc?
Proscriptor: Kris Verwimp designed the cover and two additional illustrations for the CD layout. (Michael Riddick was responsible for the LP cover art, which is completely different from the CD version). Anyway, Kris is an “Absu-lute” genius when it comes to transferring my concepts and ideologies behind the cover illustrations for ABSU. The idea for the new cover is based on my impression of how the “Absu” or abyss geographically begins at the top, which is classified as the “Plain of Infinite Portals. “ The winged-serpent and constellation pattern in the upper left and right hand corners represent the Great Nodens’ of Sumerian mythology and/or The Akashic Records. This cover is a compendium of mysticism encoded in both a physical and non-physical plane of existence.

SLUG: I’m sure you’ve been asked this a hell of a lot in the last few months, but why eight years for a new album from ABSU, and are we going to have to wait another eight years for another album?
Proscriptor: This is how the story goes: there were many innuendoes pointing in my direction that ABSU was beginning to crumble and it all originated in late 2001. As a matter of fact, my relationship was getting so deficient that I quit the band for four months and during that period I auditioned for Slayer. When I returned, Equitant left in April 2002, but we decided to carry on as trio because before his departure. Equitant converted to bass as we had another guitarist in the band: Kashshapxu. As we were beginning the compositions and arrangements for the self-titled album, a minor tragedy struck. In June 2002, I was in an accident and shattered the bones in my left wrist. A couple of orthopedic surgeons were not optimistic about my ability to ever play drums again, so this had me a bit concerned. Once this occurred, the songwriting completely stopped and the motivation to continue amongst both guitarists had vanished. Luckily with a few custom made casts and rehabilitation, I was back to playing drums and ironically speaking, playing better than I did before I snapped my wrist. After the healing process, I immediately flew to The Netherlands then Sweden to rehearse/record with Melechesh for two months for the recording of their third album Sphynx. Upon my return to Dallas in early January 2003, I was informed by Shaftiel he no longer wanted to continue working with ABSU, so it was all down to me. I had decided it was a decent time to go on hiatus as we all had been working diligently for over 12 years. So, I took a four year pause from ABSU and pursued parenthood, two Equimanthorn albums, a Starchaser Network album, (both projects with Equitant) I was in a short-lived band called The Turning (which was an immense mistake), performed one festival with Melechesh and exalted my label Tarot Productions with nine releases to date. I also started my own mastering/post production studio to assist other bands with their releases before their final product went off to manufacturing. Now, the tale of the reformation: in the Spring of 2007, I contacted guitarist/songwriter Aethyris McKay about possibly resurrecting ABSU since both Shaftiel and Equitant had no interest in continuing the band. He mentioned he knew of a lead guitarist that would be an ideal replacement for Shaftiel named Vastator. Vastator only lasted six months (May-November 2007) in the band and left due to musical differences. He contributed four songs for the new album, as I was gratified for his services. The day after his departure, Aethyris and I recruited long time comrade Zawicizuz of Infernal Oak/Rape Pillage & Burn fame to replace Vastator and let me tell you, it’s been a prosperous working environment ever since. A few months ago, we also hired bassist/co-vocalist Ezezu from the Texas-based band Panzram to fulfill, yet complete the line-up of ABSU once and for all. So, here we are with a new line-up, new album and new vision for future times to come. The songs on the new album consist of, more or less, “leftovers” from the prior and current guitarists of ABSU. Half of the tracks were composed by current guitarists Aethyris and Zawicizuz, while the other half were written by Shaftiel and Vastator, which I thought created a good blend of diversity throughout the entire album. No, the world will not have to wait another eight years for the next release because we are a reawakened beast of death and destruction – magic(k) and mythology. With a new outlook and new line-up, we are prepared to carry on. And by signing with Candlelight Records, we still have a few albums left to fulfill our agreement with them.

SLUG: You are a pretty active musician/vocalist played in quite a few bands, Melechesh for example, how did that connection start?
Proscriptor: Ashmedi (lead guitar/vox) and I have known each other for roughly 14 years now. When Melechesh was still based out of Israel (and no, none of them are Israelis – they are of Armenian/Assyrian pedigree), we use to converse over the phone and noticed similarities both bands had in common with one another: lyrically and spiritually. In 1999, they relocated to both Holland and France in order to get away from all the mortal idiocy that was going on in that country. Their original drummer, Lord Curse, decided to stay in Israel, (now, he resides in the US working for Lucasfilms) so when they were preparing to record their sophomore album, Djinn, they asked me to session on drums and backing vocals. At that same time, in early 2000, Melechesh did not have a label representing the band, so I approached Osmose Productions with the album after it was completed. They did not hesitate at all and signed them for three albums immediately. Also, I was asked to join the ranks of Melechesh has permanent percussionist and co-lyricist as well. As I am quite fascinated with Sumerian/Mesopotamian/Assyrian magic(k) and mythology in ABSU, I actually got to witness and feel the dark sentiments of Melechesh while I was a member. So technically speaking, I was an official member from 1999-2004. Ashmedi and I came to an agreement that it would be best if I stepped down from the Melechesh throne mainly due to the vast, extensive geographical distance between myself and the band. I explained to him that it was not fair to the band to continue Trans-Atlantic band relations and to find a permanent member in Europe; The Netherlands preferably. They hired Xul from the legendary Dutch death/thrash band Thanatos and what a fine choice they made. In other words, it became impractical for me to remain in Melechesh.

SLUG: I could keep asking and asking questions, but to wrap things up, if there is anything you want to say about the new album, the band, anything, please do so. Also, is there anything you would like people to take away from listening to ABSU?
Proscriptor: After reading numerous reviews and message board comments since the promotional copies have been distributed, as well as the album being leaked, the public are saying what I want them to say: “it still sounds like ABSU!” You know, there are so many damn subsidiaries off-shooting from metal and even extreme metal these days. Even when ABSU first started, of course we had mixed elements of black, death and thrash metal. Lyrically, on the other hand, we were somewhat discrete. We were and still are inspired by motifs of the “Necronomicon,” Sumerian/Mesopotamian mythology, Celtic mythology and legends, ceremonial magic(k), gnosticism, alchemical sciences, numerology, Tarot, The Golden Dawn, weaponry, Thoth, Qabbalistic magick, and our ancestral roots ranging anywhere between the 9th to 16th century from Scotland and Ireland. Who knows: maybe with the next album I may discuss the tribulations and hardships of Annunaki or I may tell the story of how one’s mind can successfully enter a metaphysical vortex.