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One of the most difficult things to accomplish in today's extreme metal music is originality. Granted, some bands are not looking to be the most original acts, but rather to pay tribute to their influences. Others are clearly innovators with a distinct and unique approach, a vision so clear that few can replicate it. Texas' blackened thrash occult metallers Absu clearly fall into this category. Not only has Absu created a unique sound, but they have touched upon lyrical themes that few have delved into like Sumerian and Mesopotamian magic and mythology. The subject matter is so obscure that there is an eight page glossary of terms included with the new album. The music is so technically adept that they have been unable to find a permanent second guitarist to join the clan. In the interest of exploring Absu's musical vision and the ideas behind the new album 'Tara', the Metal Update had a chat with drummer / vocalist / lyricist Sir Proscriptor McGovern.

METAL UPDATE: In the beginning of Absu's existence you were not in the band yet, correct?

PROSCRIPTOR MCGOVERN: Yes, that is correct.

MU: How did you meet up with the other guys? You were in bands with them prior to Absu, right?

PM: Yes, that's correct. The band was initially formed in 1989 under the name Dolmen and later in 1990, the band changed the name to Azathoth. In the early portion of 1991, they metamorphisized the name into Absu. I actually joined the band in June of 1992. I have been in the band for nine and a half years now. I have actually known Shaftiel and Equitant for about 17 years, so I have performed in bands prior to Absu's existence in 1991, dating all the way back to 1987.

MU: Could you explain briefly what Absu's lyrics deal with? You definitely touch upon different themes from album to album, correct?

PM: Yes, but basically what we concentrate on is Sumerian and Mesopotamian magic and mythology, ceremonial magic, Qabbalistic magic, gnostocism, Celtic mythology and magic, sorcery, warding, and especially our ancestral attributions deriving from a Scottish, Irish and Germanic background more or less.

MU: When did you first find interest in these topics?

PM: Probably when I was at the age of 12 or 13 and it was just due to the heavy usage of hallucinogenic drugs. Payote and LSD really opened the door to my "mind's eye" and I was able to open the gates to the metaphysical side of my mind. So, roughly at the age of 12 or 13 is when I was fascinated with such topics as the occult, alchemical sciences, magic, mythology, old history of medieval times, tarot, and numerology as well.


MU: Are all the Absu albums concept albums?

PM: No. 'Tara' is actually the only full conceptual album we have ever released, but I will say that the past two albums released before 'Tara' ('The Third Storm of Cythraul' and 'In the Eyes of Ioldanach') are more collections of songs and ideas that actually led up to the conceptual pattern of 'Tara'. 'Tara' is more or less the third part of a trilogy where those past two releases lead up to the concept and story of 'Tara'.

MU: That's why you pretty much included those in the new album 'Tara'.

PM: That's correct.

MU: You have a very unique style of drumming. What drummers influenced your style of playing?

PM: I would probably have to say a lot of progressive, art rock and fusion drummers from the 70's are probably my biggest influence as far as my playing. Bill Bruford, Phil Collins, Robert Wyatt, Billy Cobham, Terry Bozzio, and also drummers such as Dave Lombardo are probably my biggest influences.

MU: You don't hear a lot of drummers with your style - the way you use the snare a lot. You do a lot of fills on the snare as well as fancy things with the high hat.

PM: I typically incorporate a lot of jazz / fusion with very hasty beats per minute and very fast tempo patterns at the same time, making it a very extreme black metal style of drumming, but being able to incorporate progressive and fusion elements in it. I feel it's something innovative in this type of music that no other drummer has really done before and I want to be able to innovate new styles as far as my percussive playing goes.

MU: What bands influenced the musical direction of Absu?

PM: Slayer and Kreator are probably the biggest influences and probably the most obvious influences towards the listener of Absu. I would say that all three of us are very indulged and inspired by all different kinds of styles of music. I mean anything from King Crimson to Motorhead to Kraftwerk to Iron Maiden to Slayer to Genesis to Blondie to even Mayhem. We have a very wide range of influences and inspiration within the band. But it's mainly anything from 1970 to 1991, anywhere in between those 21 years has had the most immense influence upon us.

MU: Yeah, I noticed your playlist varies from fairly recent material to stuff dating back to the 70's.

PM: Exactly.

MU: I consider Absu to be one of the few good US bands. What do you think of the current US metal bands? Do you like any? Do you dislike any?

PM: I do and I feel there is a strong brotherhood between Absu and a lot of the bands that exist in the United States. I feel this country is a bit behind on what's going on on a worldwide basis, but hopefully the intellect of these peoples' minds will be able to catch up with their playing abilities. Some of the most notable bands that I do respect would have to be Bloodstorm, Thornspawn, The Soil Bleeds Black, Infernal Oak, Of the Fallen, The Chasm, Grand Belial's Key and Demoncy.

MU: Speaking of Bloodstorm, you had one of the members tour with you guys in the US with Enslaved and Incantation. Wasn't he previously in Goreaphobia?

PM: That's correct.

MU: Have you played out much since that tour?

PM: That tour was in the summer of 1995 throughout the entire North American continent. We've actually done a couple more tours in 1997 in Europe and also in Texas and Mexico as well. But actually, Absu has not toured in four years and it's just due to the lack of members that the band has had. Equitant was playing guitar and now he has been converted to bass. It is very difficult to find a very precise and technical player for our style because that kind of goes back to your previous question about US bands. We even looked for a guitarist from those other bands mentioned. It's just very difficult to find somebody that can fit to the style of Absu, but hopefully we will be able to tour in October and November in Europe and then follow with a US and an entire North American excursion afterwards.

MU: That would be good. It's been quite a while. So you are looking right now?

PM: We do have a session member that will fill in for us and it is Alex Colin Toquaine from the French band Aggressor. He will be filling in for us, but in the meantime, we are looking for a permanent member; someone who is completely maniacal with an immortal and magickal spirit.

MU: Theatrics play a fairly large role in Absu's live setting. If you had no limits, what would you like to do for a stage setup? Do you have any ideas on that?

PM: We'd probably be cavalrymen on horses and definitely start impaling humans on stage (laughing) if I could have my way. Blood, war, and utter skirmishing battle going on. Possibly drink some wine in between songs.

MU: (laughing) I didn't expect that at all. Why are there so many official websites?

PM: The reason being is because all those websites were collaborated and created ever since 1996 to the present date and I feel that all of them have very special meanings. All of them are a little different from one another. I wanted to put those under one banner and now we do have an official webpage. We have for about 10 months now.

MU: It just links all those.

PM: Exactly. So I didn't want to drop any of them but I just wanted to keep them all together under the official webpage banner of


MU: It is a good idea because when I was doing research I had more than enough of what I needed. If a website sucks, then you don't have what you are looking for. When was the new album 'Tara' actually completed?

PM: It was completed around the very first part of 2001, in January.

MU: It almost sounded like it was completed back in '99 and it just took years to actually get released.

PM: It is just that the songwriting process got delayed. The actual mix and mastering of the album was done this year. And it was released in Europe and elsewhere excluding North America on May 21st. But it will be released either the 3rd or 4th Tuesday in July in the States through DNA, which is the subsidiary distribution company of Germany's own SPV. They're also going to re-release the back catalogue of every Osmose title. This should be quite prosperous and not only that, but my wife and I are actually working for Osmose Productions, working a USA office. We are basically doing public relations, publicity, and retail work for American chains and independent outlets. I'm also doing proofreading and corrections of the webpage, the CD booklets, the bios, the one sheets and the advertisements now. I think Osmose deserves a hell of a lot more attention in the United States than what it's experienced in the past decade. I want to be able to spread the prosperity within the label.

MU: That would definitely be a good thing. The album 'Tara' actually deals with a hill or mountain in Scotland?

PM: It's actually in Ireland and it's an exalted imperial where High Kings and tyrants once reigned in Celtic Mythology. It is the third and final development in the trilogy for Absu. Like I said previously, this album continues from 'The Third Storm of Cythraul' and 'In The Eyes of Ioldanach'. Our intent is to recover this hill and actually conquer it at the very end of the album. 'Tara' to me is not only an album of extreme blackened thrash occult metal music, but I look at it as an exhibition of pagan antiquity. What I'm trying to do with this album is balance the difference between tyranny, gnosticism, and magic. The album is presented in a chronicled assembly dividing the album into two phases.

MU: What inspired the use of so many guest musicians on the album?

PM: The reason is that Absu has never done a conceptual album before. There are a lot of characters that I had created and also characters that are actually from Celtic Mythology that I incorporated within the story of 'Tara' and I thought it would have been very unique, yet important to include guest musicians to portray these characters within the album. Since it is a concept album, I thought there were really no rules to be bent, so I knew it would have been exceptional to use guest musicians to contribute; not only their musical talents, but their vocal talents as well.

MU: Speaking of vocal talents, I have to ask you who sings on the song "Stone of Destiny"? Around the 6.5 minute mark there is an incredible scream that I was blown away by and I had to find out who that was.

PM: Actually that's me and two comrades of mine. One by the name of Masthema Mazziqim from a Dallas-based black metal band called Azazel's Torch and also another comrade of mine by the name of Ronnie Trent, who also sings in a very progressive melodic metal band here from Dallas called Ten Kingdoms. So, it's all three of us who are switching and alternating vocal patterns.

MU: Is there still going to be a 38 page booklet that comes with the album?

PM: Actually it's 44 pages. Probably the most elaborate packaging Osmose Productions has ever had. A lot of people don't know this, but the CD booklet. . . There are two things I did want to mention about it. First, there's so many foreign and so many intricate terms within the lyrical patterns of the music that I actually included an eight page glossary in the back of the CD booklet, so anytime a human listener comes across a term they don't know about they can just refer to the back and look it up. I wanted to do something special, magickal for the listener of Absu. Second, the artist Kris Verwimp, when I told him all the ideas that I wanted for not only the album cover. . . There's two paintings that he did inside of the CD booklet. Each painting represents the phases for the album. Before he started illustrating it, Kris Verwimp had taken a trip to Ireland and he actually went to Tara, which is still an existing hill. It is more of an ancient monument rather than anything that is still operating to this day as far as the royal seeds of Ireland. Kris went to the very top of Tara and he excavated soil samples and leaf tissue samples. He's from Belgium and when he came back he actually ground it up, concocted the leaf tissue samples and the soil samples within the paint, and mixed it in together, so anybody that is actually holding a CD booklet or an LP cover of Tara is actually holding a piece of pagan history in their hands. So that is something that I think is quite incredulous as well - as far as his contributions toward the album.

MU: One last thing on this Tara album, I must admit that the start of 'The Pillars of Mercy' is perhaps the most intense start to a song or album that I've ever heard. How it just breaks straight into double bass and ripping guitar solos. I'd play that for people and they were just like, "Wow."

PM: Thank you. We really put more energy than usual into this album because basically one of our goals and objective is always to try to outdo each Absu album. I think that anyone that has followed the band from the beginning to present date can definitely agree with what I am saying. It seems that every album gets a little bit faster and it gets a little bit more hateful and it gets a little bit more technical at the same time. I think even with the next Absu album, I'll even give the title of it. It's self-titled. I think it will be more fierce than 'Tara', but it is not going to be a concept album. It is just a collaboration of mythological occult metal tracks.

MU: How soon will that see the light of day?

PM: I hope very soon. One problem that Absu has always had is the pauses between releases. We are not like other bands. We are perfectionists, so we take a lot of time on the music. Hopefully we will be in the studio in no more than a year to a year and a half.

MU: Do you usually stick to the same studio? Because production seems to bounce from album to album.

PM: Yeah. Actually the past three releases have been at the same studio, but we are never going to record there again. I think we are going to go somewhere else. Hopefully somewhere in Europe. It's really hard. It's quite tedious to find a good engineer that does extreme metal music, especially from Dallas, Texas. Kol Marshall who had worked on the album is definitely the best engineer we've worked with as far as being with Absu and he's also contributed his skills to King Diamond, Mercyful Fate and Usurper.

MU: Besides Absu you are involved with your own project Proscriptor, correct?

PM: Yes.

MU: How has the response been to that?

PM: It has its pros and its cons. It's definitely not metal music. It's more progressive, occultic, avant-garde, art folky music and I have two albums released. One on Cruel Moon International and also my label Dark Age Productions. I have a brand new album called 'The Serpentine Has Risen'. It's actually three years old. We're supposed to be licensed by a Greek label called In Vision Music, but the label went bankrupt. I have definitely lost contact with them, so I am looking for a label to license it at the present moment. So, I'm basically keeping it on the side. But actually the most important priorities right now are Absu and Melechesh, another band I am involved with on Osmose Productions.

MU: So you have been involved with Absu, Proscriptor, and Melechesh. How about some of the other things I've read about, such as Heaven's Devils?

PM: It's basically a 70's Southern Rock / Heavy Metal band that I formed a couple of years ago. I am currently working on that as well. My current activities that are keeping me very occupied are Absu, Heaven's Devils, Melechesh and Proscriptor.

MU: OK. Now the other members of Absu had their own solo projects as well, right?

PM: Correct.

MU: Are they still going at this time?

PM: Shaftiel's is on hold right now. He is basically just concentrating on working on new Absu material because he does the writing of all the riffs, rhythms, and the material. Equitant just released a brand new solo album called 'Exhibit 2' and it is on his own label called Black Mountainous Productions.

MU: How do theirs differ in sound from yours?

PM: His is strictly dark ambient and electronic music like Aphex Twin and Kraftwerk. It's in that vein.

MU: Besides being a musician, how else do you contribute to the metal scene? Pretty much through Dark Age Productions, right?

PM: Yeah, but that label is pretty much on pause right now for the time being. Actually we can say I am more contributing my skills and adeptness with Osmose Productions right now. That is definitely keeping me busy.

MU: Are you pretty much the US office now?

PM: I wouldn't say that we are the "official" US office like what the US office used to be a couple years ago. I'm not in charge of promotion or distribution. But, we are in charge of public relations, retail, and corrections. So, there is definitely a difference between all that. Basically in the US, we are doing everything but distribution and promotion. We are doing everything else.

MU: Sounds good. Do you have any closing comments?

PM: Hopefully we will be on tour in North America either in December or January 2001 / 2002. I thank you for this interview and just wanted to tell everybody thank you for burning the ancient flame for Absu for over a decade now and we promise to keep the spirit of the magic and immortality alive perpetually.


review of Absu 'Tara'





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Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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