ABSU - Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L. (BESTIAL ONSLAUGHT - LP 2004 / GOTHIC Records - CD 1993)
I honestly don’t like the American black metal so much. With just a couple of exceptions from the old days and few newer bands most of the stuff from the US land was not impressive at all. But there are always some exceptions, as I mentioned, and the main one here for me personally is Absu. This is a band, which I actually really fuckin love. They have always been playing very unique music, they never looked at what was going on in the Scandinavia, but just played their own style of black metal, with their own influences and concept and for that they deserve a great respect. I have been knowing them since the mid 90’s, after reading an interview in one magazine when I decided to get one cassette of theirs and since then I am a big fan. This album was titled "Barathrum: Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultul Lapidem". Now almost 20 years later I still truly love this LP and consider it to be Absu’s finest along with “Tara”, so damn awesome it is. This album is truly unique, special and one of a kind. No other band before and after has composed something similar. No other band – especially from the USA – have ever matched this quality and I cannot imagine a black metal maniac without this LP in his collection. There are several CD / LP versions released – the one from The Crypt Records is especially worthy recommending, being released as a 3LP box set limited to 500 copies (200 black, 300 red/black marbled) with great layout, etc. I personally have a 2004 Bestial Onslaught picture LP version, which also looks nice. It has the lyrics, which is important for such albums, and the picture of the vinyl on side A has the original artwork (which is just beautiful!) and the legendary band photo, which was also used on the cover of some CD versions, is on side B. So yeah, it truly looks breathtaking. And some may now ask “but what is the point in reviewing something so old and what you already know so well?”. Hmm, I guess there’s only one answer – to pay respect and honour the authors of this album and more so, maybe also to describe how important this LP is for me and finally to recommend it to those, who maybe have never had a chance to hear it (are there still any such poor people???).
Everything about "Barathrum: V.I.T.R.I.O.L." is special. The artwork is phenomenal, so is their old logo. The lyrics are great, and finally they even recorded an awesome 12 minutes long video for three of the songs, which also is just excellent. And finally the music… wow. WOW! This is majestic, epic, harsh, aggressive, occult, dark and obscure black metal in its finest form. The origins of the band were more like death / thrash sort of thing, with some very archaic black metal, especially on their demos and previous band Dolmen, and musically you can still hear some of these influences on “Barathrum”. There are quite few thrashing riffs, which spice up the whole album and add some aggression to the entire music, especially as the main focus has been placed on the epicness and atmosphere. To achieve that, Absu has used many intros, special interludes, which truly create dark and evil atmosphere, etc. Just listen to how this albums begins… “An Involution of Thorns” is sort of orchestral, choral, ambient intro, very majestic and gloomy, with killer vocals of Emperor Proscriptor Magikus – it all sounds like some sort of invocation, a beginning of the ritual / rite or something. Truly killer beginning, but then you have “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)”, which for me is the best song from the whole album. From the very first riff you know it is going to be something amazing… opened with sort of almost bombastic, epic motif it is just damn heavy and powerful, but then the pace speeds up, it turns into angry, aggressive beast. I love the atmosphere of this song, all these arrangements, some of which were really brave for this sort of music and for those times – like that one with the female vocals mixed with ghoulish voice of Shaftiel. But it just sounds excellent, in my opinion and how relentless it also is… Uuggghhhh… Personally I consider “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)” to be one of the best black metal songs ever written.
But then we have another beast coming titled “An Equinox of Fathomless Disheartenment”. It is again reasonably fast and aggressive, with very heavy, brilliant riffing… Musically it is sort of similar to some Acheron satanic opuses, in my opinion, maybe just slightly better. There are some seriously killer riffs and the screaming voice of Proscriptor sounds like from the abyss. “Infinite and Profane Thrones” is another truly worth mentioning part of “Barathrum”; opened with another orchestral intro, which always gives me shivers it smoothly evolves into one just incredibly amazing riff and turns into epic, utterly obscure and mystical brilliance. In such songs I can see how great role is of the vocals, where the vocalists are like narrators, invocators. And Shaftiel especially is an awesome vocalist, I think this guy sounds just perfect on “Barathrum”. “Infinite and Profane Thrones” is surely among the finest moments of the album; this song is incredibly diverse, great composed, arranged and performed, so I just have nothing else to wish for. A true masterpiece is also “Fantasizing to the Third of the Pagan Vision (Quoth the Sky, Nevermore Act II)”; the slowest (in some parts) and most epic among these songs, this one is truly amazing. There are more keyboards used in it than in the whole rest of the album, so the atmosphere is truly dark, sinister and mystical, occult in 666%. Pure ritual, this is how I feel this music is like. So yeah, so much is going on in “Barathrum”, there is just brilliant atmosphere and compositions, so I honestly consider this album to be close to perfection.
Standout tracks: “Descent to Acheron (Evolving into the Progression of Woe)”, “Infinite and Profane Thrones”, “Fantasizing to the Third of the Pagan Vision (Quoth the Sky, Nevermore Act II)”
Final rate: 95/100