In heavy metal, the battle between seriousness and silliness can often seem like a binary. Either an act just wants to play real hard and real fast while singing about drinking, hanging with wizards, or grooving with Satan, or it wants to document the daunting void, to explore the evil annals of the world with great solemnity. This needn't be an either-or proposition, of course, but it most often is. You don't go to Sunn O))) for riff-loving smiles and high kicks, and you don't take a deep dive into Manowar's catalog to contemplate your own existence.
Strangely enough, Absu—Texas legends largely regarded as one of the first American acts to take on the mantle of black metal—have learned to straddle this attitude division brilliantly. Each of Absu's albums offers an exploration of some mythological system—first Sumerian, then Celtic, and now the wider world of magick. The albums brim with esoteric references and complicated riddles, mystifying proper nouns and heady decrees, a formula that bandleader Proscriptor has pursued for nearly three decades. To wit, he says of the forthcoming Apsu: "Lyrically, this will definitely be my most scientific album to date. It not only descends deep into the hardships of spirits such as Qingu and Irra, but the Enochian Magic(k) System and the cause/effect of Hermetic Praxis." Ridiculous, right?
Especially on Absu's two most recent albums, though, the music is a high-flying, high-energy circus, its mix of strangely giddy black metal and thrash played at methamphetamine speed zigging and zagging with unexpected delight. To wit, Proscriptor began "Earth Ripper," the opening cut from the band's great 2011 album, Abzu, with the sort of jubilant squeal that suggested all of Van Halen riding in a convertible with the top down. Absu combines exuberance and erudition for songs that are, at first, fun to hear and, ultimately, necessary to ponder.