PROSCRIPTOR MCGOVERN’S APSÛ – Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû (2021)REVIEW

One of few acts to transition from the underground late 80’s extreme thrash metal sphere and pure death metal beyond only to find their signature in the mid-90’s by way of an increasingly technical black/thrash metal sound, Absu are generally revered as an important figure among musicians achieving rare black metal notoriety and personae within the United States during the 1990’s. This comes alongside a well-documented history of stylistic, thematic and virtuosic innovation throughout that decade, presenting the logical follow-up to ‘Soulside Journey‘ before setting key black/thrash metal benchmarks, hinging their exploration on fastidious occult black metal. Maniac pace, occult menace and spiritually-achieved technicality soon became signature feats and a new high standard when the early 2000’s hit and the Texas-based trio’s fourth album, ‘Tara‘ (2001), released. It was a work beyond the limits of my own imagination at the time and still remains a great point of inspiration in pursuit of extreme music in general. To have sat with that record and truly taken influence and enjoyment of it for two decades admittedly makes the approach of new material from a ‘spiritual successor’ entity increasingly complex; My own fandom tends to either sit in place with one item idealized or, generally degrade objectivity over time. Nostalgia must be beaten back, the discography must be reexamined for fresh perspective, and this new work likewise tested for longevity via marathon immersion. If this new incarnation of the band could not perform on the level of ‘Abzu‘ (2011) off the bat it’d be a deeper blow, having waited a decade for what is a direct follow-up to said perfection. This, paired with issues unrelated to the music itself + a decade long line of teasers for what was coming next, had me dodging my thoughts on ‘Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû‘ for several weeks. Let nothing cloud you from any similar self-induced haze, this seventh album from the band (or, debut from Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû) shreds something unholy from start to finish.

Tara‘ and ‘Abzu‘ were blazing swords swung quick, violent occultist outbursts fed by high-speed attacks throughout, by comparison ‘Absu‘ (2009) and now ‘Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû‘ are extended sermons, experiences that begin smoldering with oppressive arcane atmosphere as the listening session persists. Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû‘s debut does not modulate far from Absu‘s post-millennium discography as a finest and entirely demanding, non-stop darting black/thrash riff-fest. The dedicated hand of guitarist Vaggreaz‘ (Possessed, Gruesome) energetic, if not heavy-handed performance matches the acumen of past guitarists, introducing some different melodic ideas on a few movements but still intentionally matching the phrasal violence and satisfyingly complex rhythmic movement of the previous two releases in the trilogy. It is important to emphasize that this album is worthy continuation of a legacy sound and not an inversion of it, impressive on the level of past works from Proscriptor and crew but no longer searching for new sonic climes and instead focusing on hyper-expressivity, challenging and engaging extreme metal performances with distinct and varied action throughout. The high standards of the past are well held, this much will be obvious within seconds of the first song firing off — My priority as a fan is to convey the chaotic force that ‘Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû‘ is as an experience compared to past works, wherein the interplay between the guitar and drum performances is so frantically active that it begins to feel like sorceled corrosion meant to scourge the listener. The harassment on offer becomes its own potent substance with the proper immersion achieved.

Stare too long and the mind begins to deceive the eye with its lazing expectations. One might tumble into the furor of this record finding nothing new upon the surface, hearing complex woven and machine-gunned rhythm work and all manner of Proscriptor‘s personality-rich musicianship flaring at the nostrils with ideas but this is an Absu record in all but name. In fact I had to laugh at the idea that the band name were contested and the response was essentially “Well, I’ll put my damn name on the next one.” whether or not that was the thought. At the very least we cannot consider it a lame duck amongst the trilogy (‘Absu‘, ‘Abzu‘, ‘Apsû‘) but instead a very fitting peak. Point in mind is that ‘Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû‘ sounds familiar enough that it won’t begin to shock the mind into the right headspace ’til you begin to pay attention to the incredible density of the material. To pick through these spells in any sort of play-by-play description wouldn’t accomplish much and the “riff highlights” would have a mile-long list on my part so, what is new and perhaps most tonally directive amidst the hissing cauldron of it all will take precedence in description. “Amenta: Accelerando: Azyn Including Hierophantasmal Expounder” sets the tone in two parts, first an tech-thrash backwards walk from the decade past into angelic voice and presents every implication that this album will flow together just as seamlessly as the last. Vorskaath‘s (Agatus, Zemial) integration of keyboards and mellotron within “In-Betweeness Gateway Commuters” starting around ~2:00 minutes into the piece is a notable blip on my radar. A motion which differs and, arguably elevates the whole experience with deeper-set and less prominent keyboard placement. A different approach than that of past works which brings some unexpected supernatural cinema to the full listen, a different atmosphere than what we’d found on the second half of ‘Abzu’. while the guitarist punches out one of the more late 90’s Absu-esque (see: ‘The Third Storm of the Cythraul‘, 1997) guitar arrangements on the album.

“Dedicated to Thoth, But Azathoth Wasn’t Listening (A Necroloquy)” crowns Side B with the ear-bender of the lot, a standout in terms of riffcraft that’d stuck in mind thanks to the vomited ash cloud that arises in its last third. In skipping back and doing a couple of double-takes as this song replayed I’d been reminded of the experience of discovering ‘Tara‘ for the first time; It isn’t that slowing down to pick through an extreme metal band’s idea-dense song is anything out of the ordinary but that this is the typical Absu experience, a work that arrives peeling in layers of reveal as the album commits to memory. Familiarity might be a concern depending on your attention span as the ~44 minute runtime presses on with ten songs averaging just over three and a half minutes, this means some fatigue for the guitar tone might set in around “Prana Therion Akasha” before the final two pieces on the album have a chance for their grand finale. “Tantrums Of Azag-Kkû” should come across as a refinement of the new voice ‘Abzu‘ had founded and “Every Watchtower Within Is the Axis of a Watchtower Without Including Totemic Thresholds” is the big finish and another piece greatly enhanced by Vorskaath‘s work. It is a wonder that the full listen hardly takes a break for its duration and it will always be a demanding listen but I’d found it impossible to look away from the great eye, and would often leave it on repeat for 4-5 spellbinding sessions in a row.

If you liked the direction Absu were headed back in 2011 there’ll be zero objection to the well-honed material found on this first Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû album — No compromise on quality or quantity whatsoever as plenty of new shapes and sounds ensure it holds up to a hundred spins and beyond. The mix/master and presence depicted is decidedly organic, performative and polished to the point that the vocals almost don’t seem loud and outrageous as they are intended to be, though he always cuts just through the peak of the din. Though I’d initially found it muddy, this sound design matches the aggressive tunnel vision inducing manner of the record itself. There are a few hundred more details to extrapolate from ‘Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû‘ but the point is made well and my thoughts glowing enough. The uninitiated won’t get the wrong idea from this high level of presentation and the fanatic will gladly stare into the abyss once more. It is one of the better records released this year and has my thumbs up after all. A very high recommendation.

Very high recommendation. (90/100)

Rating: 9 out of 10.
TITLE:Proscriptor McGovern’s Apsû
LABEL(S):Agonia Records
RELEASE DATE:November 26th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Progressive Black/Thrash Metal,
Mythological Occult Black Metal

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