Absu

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Black metal happens in Brooklyn. Is anyone still genuinely mad? It doesn’t appear so. Just a few years ago, “Brooklyn black metal" was a serious slur in certain circles; today, it is a mundane fact of life. The notion of a guy from Averse Sefira challenging Hunter Hunt-Hendrix to a fight sounds like a rejected pitch for an Onion article once more.

This rebalancing strikes me as fair. Crummy–but-fashionable black metal bands come from this part of New York, but crummy-but-fashionable black metal bands come from virtually every part of the US these days. They are inescapable. And with a handful of exceptions, Brooklyn’s crop of black metal-derived music is extremely potent. Absu’s two-night stand at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn demonstrated this fact plainly; Krallice (who played the night before, pics here) and then Tombs stood strong next to Absu’s powerhouse live show.

Tombs do not have an entry on Metal Archives because, according to the site’s moderators, they are a post-rock band. This claim becomes increasingly ridiculous with each Tombs release. The three new tunes the band trotted out at this gig waxed icier and angrier than any of their past work; I have trouble imagining a post-rock song that involves the high-BPM blastbeats that these compositions involved. But cold riffs are not necessarily thin songs; new(-ish) second guitarist Garret Bussanick (Flourishing, Wetnurse) allows Tombs to replicate the layered depth of their studio work.

I am only a casual fan of Absu’s recorded material, but an enthusiastic fan of their live show. Though the content of their music is as serious as it gets, their live presentation involves heaping helpings of kitsch—Proscriptor McGovern wears a studded headband plus arm socks and talks like the Crypt Keeper between songs; everyone wears guyliner.

That said, the kitsch factor dissolves rather quickly as soon as Absu begins playing. If they were a death metal band, they’d be Origin; the notes-per-minute count of their music is absurdly high and the delivery is absurdly tight, but the songs somehow remain accessible. These two Vitus gigs were nominally two-set career retrospective affairs. Absu followed through on the career retrospective part, but there was no real break in the action—just ninety minutes of grin-inducing black metal shred.

— words by Doug Moore
— photos by Caroline Harrison

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