Seeing as I missed Absu last time they were in Australia, I was determined to see them this time, and when Portal were announced as their national support, I knew I had to go. But I’ll be honest, here; I was kind of hoping Portal would play last. No band can follow Portal’s example, ever. Marduk couldn’t do it, and I was sure Absu couldn’t either. Regardless, I knew it was going to be a great gig.
First thing’s first: The sound was excellent, as always is the case at the Hi-Fi. It was a perfect mix of treble-heavy distortion and ground-shaking bass. The lighting was a bit iffy early on, with a major case of blindthefuckoutofmeitis during Thrall’s set, but they eased up later, which was nice. The lighting didn’t really catch the mood or setting of Portal, though, but I’ll go into that more later.
Thrall were the first support, and I have to say, they were pretty damn good. Definitely black metal, but they drew on a lot of influences in their music, jumping from punk beats, to doomy riffs, to death metal technicality. On stage they seemed a little rigid, but being the first openers at a black metal gig, you have to expect that. The lighting was simple white backlights at first, which was just painful for the eyes, but they actually asked for it to be changed and settled with a nicer blue backlight that didn’t hurt to look at. But musically, which is the most important bit, they were unorthodox and brilliant.
Denouncement Pyre, on the other hand… I wasn’t tired, and I yawned during their set. Musically, they’re the same as every other black metal band of that type; blast blast blast, marching headbangy bit, blast blast blast. Formulaic, unimaginative and boring as shit. Honestly if you want to listen to that style, there are better bands. On stage they seemed to be having more fun than they did when I saw them last (at Rotting Christ), and the lighting was pretty on point, flicking reds and blues everywhere. Really not my thing, but if you like unthinking, straightforward black metal, you’ll like them. The guitar solos were a mix of terrible and great, though. I was just happy when they finished, so that I could see the band I was most looking forward to.
Portal took the stage a while later. Backlit by a dim red wash, pitch-black silhouettes of the costumed experimental death metal band stood out eerily. Portal aren’t really a band to mosh or headbang to, either. You kind of just stand there in awe of how strange and spectacular they actually are. Musically, what can I even say? It’s the most glorious sonic clusterfuck ever, and I love it. How in the hell do they get that tone? On stage, they were terrifying. Hanged Men clad in black, led by what looked like an Elizabethan princess, dressed in pure black, with tentacles for fingers. No movement from the Hanged Men at all, save for the insane speed they were shredding, and the singer only making waving gestures with their arms. The sound was deafening, but that’s just Portal for you.
The lights were weird, though. Honestly, there was no need for front lights at all. Their whole set could have been completely backlit and no front lights at all and it would have made the experience more frightening. That was really the only thing that let Portal down, but it was hardly their fault.
Absu hit the stage a short while later, while I was still coming down from Portal. Their band dynamic was strange, but refreshing. Proscriptor being the frontman, as well as the drummer and lead vocalist was brilliant to see on stage, but it was hilarious to see him try to present his band from behind a drum kit and in the dark of the back of the stage. Shouting indecipherable jargon at the crowd to introduce each song, it was so black metal I thought I’d throw up blood. It was entertaining and fun.
Musically, they were pretty awesome. Something about them was straightforward black metal, but there was a strange atmosphere about the music I still can’t quite put my finger on. It wasn’t boring to listen to, even though their set went for almost an hour and a half. They also had a lot of energy on stage, which was good to see. Most black metal bands I’ve seen have been boring, rigid, and stone-faced, but Absu really had a presence that was unlike most other bands, which I think would have been helped along if the lighting wasn’t so boring. The stage mix complimented their style of playing though, and it all felt very cohesive and planned out, but still organic. I really enjoyed their performance; I just wish the lights were better.
You know the drill by now. Go check out the bands you don’t know. I really recommend Thrall, by the way — definitely one of the better bands in the local scene here. And honestly, if you don’t already know and love Portal, there’s no hope for you, I’m sorry. And go see these bands live, if you can. I’m not sure how often Portal tours at all, let alone outside Australia, but they put on an outstanding live show. Absu also put on a great show, and are definitely worth your time. I saw Orphaned Land last night, so that review should be coming soon. Gah, still gotta do the OEA one… That’s coming soon, I promise.
Absu set list:
1. The Waters – The Denizen
3. The Coming of War
4. Night Fire Canonization
5. Earth Ripper
6. 13 Globes
7. Skrying in the Spirit Vision
8. Vorago (Spell 182)
9. The Winter Zephyr (… Within Kingdoms of Mist)
10. Morbid Scream (Morbid Scream cover)
12. Highland Tyrant Attack
13. Swords and Leather
14. Never Blow Out the Eastern Candle
16. Pillars of Mercy
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