"Mythological Occult Metal 1991-2001"

(Osmose/The End)

01. The Gold Torques of Ulaid
02. Never Blow Out the Eastern Candle
03. Stone of Destiny
04. Immortal Sorcery
05. Sumerian Sands (The Silence)
06. Disembodied
07. And Shineth Unto the Cold Cometh… Including Prelusion to Cythraul
08. Akhera Goiti – Akhera Beiti (One Black Opalith for Tomorrow)
09. Reliquae Celticae
10. The Great Battle Moving From Ideal To Actual
11. Old Tombs at Hochdorf
12. Deathcrush including Silvester Angfang
13. Swing of the Axe
14. Transylvania
15. Bestial Invasion
16. The Winter Zephyr (…Within Kingdoms of Mist)
17. Highland Tyrant Attack
18. The Thrice Is Greatest To Ninnigal
19. The Coming of War
20. Book of Splendour
21. Tasseomancy

RATING: 5/10

Not a best-of, which North America in particular could really use, but rather a nicely-packaged odds-and-sods collection of rarities from this ever-mutating, currently on hiatus Texas underground horde. You'd have to be a big fan to begin with to shell out cash for a 99-minute excursion into underproduced demos, vinyl only tracks, roughshod live recordings and "alternate versions" — so if you are, let this serve as a public service announcement that this horsepill is out.

As for the rest of us — ABSU has had some interesting ideas over the course of its decade of activity. Their earlier, simpler black metal exercises may have been rather faceless, but they had that off-the-rails charm that typified many of the initial Osmose releases. And by the time of 2001's "Tara", they were evolving into a force to be reckoned with — note that the best track of these 21 is "Stone of Destiny", from that album. By that time, Proscriptor (once considered for the drum throne in SLAYER) had become a tasteful yet blindingly fast drummer, and the band was incorporating power metal influences and a penchant for bombastic epics with finesse and style.

But the very next track is a chunk of slovenly 1991 death metal from their debut 7", which highlights the struggle with ABSU's legacy encapsulated here. This is a band that seemed to take their entire existence to figure out what the hell it was they wanted to do, only to fall apart once they got a handle on it. Just flip through the band photos in the booklet (you'll have to — the liner notes, such as they are, include only record release information and lineup listings). One year there's corpsepaint, the next there's kilts, and three years later Proscriptor is bald and shiny and the photo looks like a reject from a KOVENANT album cover.

Don't be fooled — fancy two-disc packages don't make a decent band a legend, and neither does the passage of time. I'm certain that had their lineup been more stable, and their output more consistent, ABSU would by now be one of the top bands in extreme metal. But nothing they've done since 1991 makes me want to sit through a lo-fi rendition of them covering POSSESSED, or endure painfully goofy between-song banter, or pay money for songs I already have and don't go back to listen to very much.

The bottom line is, this is for fanatical ABSU fans only, many of whom are probably already composing comments explaining just how, where, and with what implements I can fuck myself. But anyone not rabidly into this band already would be better off picking up "Tara" and working their way backward until they either hit a release they don't care for, or they become a rabid enough fan to need over an hour and a half of unimportant sweepings from the vaults. Just so we're clear on this: ABSU is a good band. They've done good stuff. It happens to already be on their albums, though, rendering this double-disc kind of pointless for everyone but obsessed archivists.


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