Across Ages Arcane
CoC manifests Absu's Proscriptor McGovern
by: Henry Akeley
Melding heavy-metallic might with high-minded mysticism, the members of Absu wield a white-hot hybrid of spellcraft and song. Lest you suspect such an utterance to be mere and insincere hype, let it be known that these guys are definitely one of my very favorite metal bands, and have been since I first encountered the titanic thrash and epic esoterica of _The Sun of Tiphareth_, their second full-length release. (I like their debut album as well, but find _The Sun..._ to be much more rapt and radiant.) This year's aptly-titled _Third Storm of Cythraul_ continues and refines the Absu tradition, craftily chanelling gusts of pure, otherworldly energy into blazing vessels of darkened, ultra-electrified thrash. (For a full review see CoC #18, and for lots of info on upcoming Absu material, read on.) I recently spoke - much more nervously than usual, I must say - to percussionist/lyricist Proscriptor McGovern hoping to learn more about projects past and present, as well as the band's myriad mystical motivations.

CoC: You take a very unique and individualistic approach to the occult themes and imagery which pervade your work. For the benefit of the un-initiated, could you say a bit to explain the philosophy which informs Absu's sound?

PMcG: Absu is strictly, and by far, a mythological, magickal, ancestrally-based cult/band. Our music and philosophies have absolutely nothing to do with the structure of society today, or with the human manifestation. Nothing. It has to do with the roots of magick that we're interested in, with pride, and with our ancestral roots. We are heavily into Mesopotamian and Sumerian mythology, and at the same time we're heavily influenced on our ancestral side by the Celtic traditions - as in Irish, Gaelic, Scottish, Pictish, and whatnot. Our wish is to make our listeners truly experience and feel out-of-body observations, with ancestral customs, magick, and immortality. This is what we're interested in, and what the band is all about. Our goal is to actually put the listener in our shoes, to travel back in time to when time wasn't even an important factor. We want the listeners to trek back to when the sword was the law, when killing was a way of life, but at the same time you worship nothing but yourself... As you know, the band chose the name Absu out of love and admiration toward the great Book of the Dead by Azif - for the overall structure, the power and fascination behind the ancient Sumerian and Assyrian mythology.

CoC: What got you started on this particular path?

PMcG: It really started happening when the members were heavily getting into finding the first traces of our ancestral roots, way back in the 13th and 14th century in Ireland and Scotland. Ever since then, we're still finding all these parallels between the Ancient Ones from Sumeria and the Celts and the Pagans - incredible similarities. Even now, Equitant and I - our lyrics are making so many analogies between those races and civilizations. So basically, this is what it's about: magick, bloodlust, spellcraft, and ancestral pride.

CoC: You describe Absu as equally cult and band. Do you think of performance as a kind of ritual?

PMcG: Yes. Yes, in a lot of respects.

CoC: What effects are you striving for?

PMcG: Well, just like any other band, we release a lot of hateful and painful aggression through the instrumentation while we're playing live. But I also feel, when I'm performing live, that I'm having a lot of out-of-body experiences. When I'm behind the kit, especially when I'm doing drums and singing - I don't think of the human formation anymore. I feel like I'm a serpent. My astrological sign is Gemini, which is also the cadaceus, and it's very important to me. You know, I feel like I'm the left side of the serpent, which is like Apzu... It's hard to explain - it's metaphysical feelings that I feel on stage...

CoC: I know that these things are hard to put into words. Though not exactly in the Absu tradition, I'm kind of a mystic myself...

PMcG: Yeah, that's the best way that I know that I can treat of these deathless, timeless, perpetual thoughts of non-human formation that are just constantly going through my mind. And like I just said: when I play live, it's a beautiful feeling - but at the same time it's very painful, very warlike... a lot of sensations of battlecraft that I get when we're up on stage. And I think I can speak for the other members of Absu when they're on stage, as well.

CoC: Of course, today's extreme metal scene is almost totally permeated by Satanism - of one variety or another. How do you think that Absu's approach relates to the issues, ideas, and so on, that are important, at least to the more thoughtful members of the Satanic contingent? Do you see important similarities, important differences?

PMcG: Well, that's based upon the social issue... And, you know, I honestly do not give a shit. I don't give a rat's ass about what other bands say, what they think, what they do. You have to follow your own pathway. If you're a Satanist, follow Satanism, and be sure and praise it as freely as you want to within the lyrical content of your songs. As for us, we're pagans. In our hearts - in our liquid-glass-cased hearts, we're pagans. There's no god but man; we worship ourselves. The Absu cult is based upon magick, bloodlust, and pride. Those are the three basic elements, and we take those three elements and try to create a very innovative, very unambiguous, annihilating force of occult rock'n'roll music. So I'm not trying to be pessimistic on this question, but it's just gotten to the point where I just don't give a shit about the Satanism and whatnot. Of course, there are still so many bands that we share a brotherhood with, throughout this whole globe that the human manifestation classifies as 'earth.' For example, Enslaved. Ourselves, we're not part of any Scandinavian or Norse indulgence or ancestral customs - but they're very, very good brothers of ours, although Absu is outside of the mythology that they study. Or like Deicide. Absu is not classified as a Satanic band: we are more weird, occult, magickal - but you know, I like Deicide a lot. So it just depends.

CoC: Have you ever heard any criticism to the effect that Absu's approach involves too much mixing of distinct occult and historical traditions?

PMcG: Well, if you've seen as many comparisons as we have [between Sumerian and Celtic traditions especially], then I think one can relate to it. But a lot of people think that we're very pretentious, because we're an American band. They think we can't be "true" - that we're not true, because Absu is an American band. A lot of people in Europe think of Absu, and then they think, "Oh! Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida... Oh! There are a lot of christian churches in America... Oh!" You know, since I abide in Texas, I can't have pure Scottish blood, obviously. But a lot of people in Europe think that they're one hundred percent, that their ancestral customs are strictly limited to themselves. It's bullshit. They're a mixed breed. You know, it's universal. You will not find pure ancestral blood, except maybe in the most rural farm areas, where they're still speaking the old languages. There, I do believe they're still carrying maybe eighty percent pure ancestral blood. So, yeah, we get a lot of shit for it, but we don't care. If people want to dog us, I don't really give a shit. It doesn't bother us; it only makes us stronger.

CoC: Any other thoughts on these issues?

PMcG: I want people reading this to know that this is how I truly feel. I'm not trying to put on an act. I'm just fascinated with my immortality, and with communicating the many thoughts of non-human formation that are always moving in and out of my conscious and subconscious mind.

CoC: I take it that you see your solo project as a real extension of that - a chance to explore all that from a different angle or a different side? [_The Venus Bellona_ is Proscriptor's first solo album, recorded for Cold Meat subsidiary Cruel Moon International.]

PMcG: Yeah, basically the idea behind the Proscriptor project is to let the audience know (quote) how I actually became (quote again) Emperor Proscriptor Magikus McGovern. It's not only I, but Equitant and Shaftiel: they have solo projects as well. And basically what it's for us to let the audience know a little bit more about who we are... But, you know, <laughs> a lot of people are expecting _The Venus Bellona_ to be a metal project, and when they hear it, it's a different concoction - it's a novel about creation through the Venus Bellona.

CoC: And even those who simply look at the track listing probably get a bit of a shock when they see the last song on there... [It's a cover of "I Ran (So Far Away)" by eighties wave-rock ensemble A Flock of Seagulls.]

PMcG: Yeah.

CoC: What led to your decision to do that?

PMcG: I'm so indulged and inspired by so many different types of music besides death, black, thrash, and heavy metal in general. I am a keyboardist, and I do a lot of programming. It's a big interest that I've wanted to take up, and this is the perfect time for me to pursue a solo career, because I have time to do it. _The Venus Bellona_ is kind of a subsidiary offshoot of what is studied in Absu: magick and ancestral behaviors based on the Celtic side of the mythology. The Proscriptor project is really pinpointing my Scottish roots, and also focuses on the Dominion Folklore of Thoth. On a lot of the album, I'm heavily influenced by the early eighties wave of pre- and post-wave rock, like A Flock of Seagulls (naturally), Gary Numan, Romeovoid, Bauhaus, and others. But at the same time, it's also got a lot of influence from early to mid-seventies progressive art rock as well... It's experimental music; I can play with the ideology or the theme behind the lyrical content. It can be post-wave rock; it can be art rock; it can be folklore, ambient, experimental.

CoC: Will there be another Equimanthorn? [Equimanthorn is the experimental ritual music project consisting of past and present members of Absu, plus certain luminaries from the Greek black metal scene.]

PMcG: That's up to Unisound Records - if they can properly negotiate a deal with us. That's totally up in the air; it's a big question mark right now, lingering in the stratosphere. But right now, of course, Absu is the numero uno priority, and Proscriptor falls second. Equimanthorn has got like four songs recorded, but it depends on the labels that will approach us to do another album. So it's just kind of wait and see.

CoC: Regarding Absu: what are you guys working on now? I hear you just recorded an Iron Maiden song?

PMcG: Yeah, a couple of weeks before the Milwaukee Metal Fest, we recorded "Transylvania", the instrumental track from the first Maiden LP. It's coming out on Dwell Records, part of a CD of Maiden covers. Also, we just did a song for the "Gummo" movie soundtrack; the movie comes out on October 3rd, which is a Friday... Right now, we're about to record the title track from the canceled mini-CD on Osmose. We're going to re-record it - it's called "Thrashstorms" - for a Necropolis compilation called _Thrashing Holocaust_.

CoC: Another Eighties revival thing?

PMcG: <laughs> Yeah.

CoC: Who else is on this thing?

PMcG: It's going to have a demo track from the original Incubus from Louisiana, Infernal Majesty, Inferno, Gehennah, Scepter, Usurper, Sigh, Abigail, Guillotine, Aura Noir, Bewitched, Angel Corpse, Nifelheim, Satanic Slaughter, and about two to four other bands. I think it's a double-disc.

CoC: When is it coming out?

PMcG: I would guess October or November. After that, we're going to do a five-song mini-CD for Osmose, all new material. The working title right now is _For Ioldanach, With a Crown of Gold_. Then hopefully we'll go back to Europe and support that. And right now, I'm working on a mini-CD for my Proscriptor project. So we're keeping busy at the moment.

CoC: So what happened to the _Thrashstorms_ mini-CD? Why was it canceled?

PMcG: We recorded it and just decided not to release it. I mean, look at all these bands doing Kreator, Sodom, and - naturally - Frost, Bathory, and Venom covers.

CoC: Yeah, that's what I figured...

PMcG: We recorded "Flag of Hate" by Kreator, "Bestial Invasion" by Destruction, "Torment in Fire" by Sacrifice -

CoC: <totally interrupting him>: Holy Shit!! [That song rules. -- Steve]

PMcG: - one by Necrovore, and then the title track. But we decided, you know, if Absu ever releases a box set ten or fifteen years down the road, we could feature those tracks. I just didn't think it would be a good move right then.

CoC: Yeah, given the timing, it definitely would have looked like bandwagoning.

PMcG: No doubt. It's just like, look at Impaled Nazarene, look at Marduk, look at Bewitched [all of whom put out mini-CDs of covers last year]...

CoC: Well, I'm bummed to hear that _Thrashstorms_ won't be coming out, because those are cool choices for songs to cover.

PMcG: We've been playing them since well before Absu was formed. There were bands before Absu like Karrion and Karnage - both spelled with a 'K'... wonder why. <laughs> Like Kreator. We've been playing the songs since '88; it's in our blood, which is why we planned the mini-CD. But, on the other hand, I told Herve the plan, but I never set any release date - then he puts it in a newsletter for Osmose. Then I look in a Relapse catalog, and they claim that they're carrying the _Thrashstorms_ mini-CD. <laughs> It's never even initially been pressed. So I called up Relapse and fucked with them: 'Yeah, I'll take forty copies.' <laughs> These people fucking kill me.

CoC: As long as we're on the topic of eighties metal, what's your opinion of the way in which that seems to be quite the trend right now?

PMcG: Personally, I really do not want to see any more bands deliberately - I hate to use this terminology, but - ripping off the eighties style. I think that the [eighties-inspired] bands that exist right now - Inferno, Usurper, Scepter, Aura Noir, and others - the majority of them are really good. But I hope it stops where it's at right now. You know, I really enjoy the bands that are out now, but I don't really want to see any more bands just do the very same thing... But you know, I am glad to see a lot of the major thrash acts re-uniting, bringing the old spirit back.

CoC: How was your recent trip to Mexico?

PMcG: Very successful - probably some of the best shows we've ever played.

CoC: I heard you had a great reception.

PMcG: It was incredible: a lot of violence, big crowds. It was cool.

CoC: What did you think of Milwaukee this year?

PMcG: Yeah! It was the second time Absu played there. The first time was in '95, and I have to say, the organization, and just everything in general was at least 80 percent better this year than what it was when we were there in '95.

CoC: Any definite plans for other recording, after the new mini-CD?

PMcG: Well, after we release that, we're going to tour, and anything else that happens after that, we'll just have to wait and see. But basically, I would say that two of the tracks that are going to be on this new CD will present a sort of image of what you'll hear on the fourth album. We just did a new negotiation with Osmose for this mini-CD and the fourth and fifth albums. We're extremely satisfied with the label.

CoC: One thing that I like about the band is that all three of your full-lengths have had a fairly distinct sound. That makes me wonder whether you'll go off in yet another (somewhat) different direction on the fourth album.

PMcG: Our goal and objective ever since this band began was to have a different style and structure and just overall different sound from album to album. I guarantee the mini-CD will have a different sound; the fourth album will have a different sound, a little bit different style. That also goes for the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth... That's just the goal for us: to have a different production, and a little bit different style, on every release. However, we want to still keep in the same vein of our own style - the Absu style and structure. From _Barathrum V.I.T.R.I.O.L._, to _The Sun of Tiphareth_, to _The Third Storm of Cythraul_ - each album varies, each is a little bit different, but I still feel that they all reinforce each other.

CoC: Yeah, I'd definitely agree with that. Continuity through variety. Are you happy with the production that you got on _The Third Storm of Cythraul_?

PMcG: The overall production, yes. The drum and percussion engineering portion of it, no, not at all. I've actually been wanting to re-mix the album - not every song, but like half the tracks. For example: "A Magician's Lapis-Lazuli" - the snare drum's completely buried. I really wanted to experiment on this recording, because I used four different snare drums on the recording - a mistake on my part. I should've just kept the snare drum that I wanted to use the most for all the tracks. But the engineer that we used, I don't think that he'd done an extreme, occult metal act before. Another thing is that we've been selfish: ever since the band's career first started, we've self-produced everything. But I think from now on, we're going to need someone else's advice, and we're going to bring in a producer for future recordings for Absu. We've seriously discussed using Harris Johns, the chief engineer at Skylab Studios in Berlin. He's recorded Kreator, Sodom, Voivod, Tankard, Immolation's _Dawn of Possession_, Occult's _The Enemy Within_, and others.

[Thanks and cheers to Proscriptor for a very interesting talk, and to Roberta Evans for making it possible. -- Steve]

(article submitted 14/9/1997)


CHATS
8/12/2001 P Schwarz Absu: Celtic Carnage
ALBUMS
9/30/2011 J Carbon 6.5 Absu - Abzu
8/12/2001 G Filicetti 9.5 Absu - Tara
11/19/1998 A Wasylyk 7 Absu - In the Eyes of Ioldanach
3/16/1997 S Hoeltzel 9 Absu - The Third Storm of Cythraul
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