The Men, the Myths
Whilst doing my Master of Arts thesis to get out of the penal complex that is university, I became inundated with the conceptology of myth. 20th century, and the new millennium perhaps even increasingly, is a time of storytelling and spectacles, of make-believe and branding. No matter how ravenously it is sought after, universal, inexorable truth does not hold a very high value in these times of subjective cynicism. Myth and mythology are kind of like a cosy, homemade answer of the old world to ventures of image marketing. When nothing is true for everyone, it is not only entertaining but a good opportunity for personal truth-moulding to look into the world of myths and common beliefs that are just that, beliefs.
In metal, we have the mystical myths of Quorthon, Varg Vikernes and Kirk Hammett’s hair transplants. But there is more to metal myth than that. There are bands such as Amorphis, Bal Sagoth, Blind Guardian, Sabbat and the ilk who have shown that olden ambitions and/or nerdiness can really blend together in this style of music. There are also bands like Rhapsody who show that they can’t. Nonetheless, few can combine metal and mythology quite as seamlessly and credibly as Absu from Texas, Scotland.
Absu recently issued a tome of historical curiosities going by the name Mythological Occult Metal. In Absu, we are speaking of a creature of many faces with regard to cultural grand narratives. Absu is a mouth that has eaten from Celtic, Mesopotamian, Sumerian and several other myths and lines of tradition. It has formed a speech of its own from them. Welcome Proscriptor McGovern, bringer of words. Please elaborate, Mac.
“Mythology has a surprising degree of impact on the music and the philosophy behind Absu, and it is valuable for us to understand how those who came before us lived and what they believed in, that being the Sumerians and Celts in particular. The mythology of a culture is frequently a good reflection of its truths and beliefs, so when people look back on us, our significance may well be considered a form of mythology. Every tale and character that is mentioned in the music of Absu was very important to people, just like us, at one time. Therefore, it makes sense for us to examine how other people worshipped mythological figures, so we can learn more about our own beliefs, and how they differ or are similar to those of the past.”
According to Proscriptor, mythological occult metal, Absu’s long-living genre tag, consists musically of “the perfect concoction of Black Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Traditional Heavy Metal and Progressive Rock/Fusion euphonically speaking”. But what does it comprise spiritually? Gnosticism, animism and (poly)theism: these are themes often mentioned in accordance with the Absu pedigree.
“Lyrically and mentally, I link the three elements of Gnosticism, animism and polytheism together because to me, this is the core unit behind Absu’s perspective. We are Gnostic to connote a single rebellious movement against prevailing religions of late antiquity, yet giving the false impression of a monolithic religious phenomenon. We are animistic because it is one of man's oldest beliefs, with its origin dating to the Paleolithic age. From its earliest beginnings it was a belief that a soul or spirit existed in every object, even if it was inanimate. In a future state this soul or spirit would exist as part of an immaterial soul. The spirit, therefore, was thought to be universal. The above describes nature worshipers among which many occultists are numbered. Animism may also be the unconscious fabrication of a spirit manifestation by the medium. It is not a fraud as the medium actually believes that he is channelling a spirit. It usually happens when the medium is put under pressure to attend a request or works in a spiritualistic circle where spirit phenomena are expected to occur. The spirit of the medium then fabricates a manifestation and it is interesting to notice that the medium’s body undergoes all the usual changes that happen in an actual spirit communication, such as altered breathing, contortions, and such procedures. Polytheism also plays a huge role because it is the belief in a multitude of distinct and separate deities, which you obviously know that Celtic, Sumerian and Mesopotamian mythology have abundant divinities.”
The influence of Peyote in the birthing of Absu’s Celtic visions has rarely been explained thoroughly. Would you mind elaborating on its effects and ramifications on your outlook and, hence, on Absu?
“I was roughly 12 years of age when I first drew awareness towards the occult and magick itself, along with the assistance of LSD and peyote (cactus buttons). Of course, Crowley was and still is my preferred guru in the sciences of the occult, Qabbalah, and Gnosticism. Generally, magick is performed with the certain movements, words, and articles which signal to the subconscious void of the mind that something extraordinary needs to be done. The success of magick can be determined, not by complex or expensive told, but by the confidence, sensation, and self-discipline one brings to a spell. I would have to admit that my Celtic “visions” formulated later than this and not as a hallucinogenic encounter with Peyote.”
Does Absu work as a representation or symbolic entity of some of the more everyday occurrences of human life, as mythological phenomena are often prone to do?
“Both. Magic(k) and affirmative reinforcements are the general core to my inspirations to be creative within Absu. Magic(k) is the chain reaction to the mainstay of my ancestral attributions, which then leads to my vast fascinations for mythology. Most importantly, I try to shut out the mortal manifestation of planet Earth as much as I possibly can when writing music. What I do is suspend all narrow definitions of reality that I have learned. I rethink what is possible or impossible, realizing that when certain actions are taken, nothing is impossible. I do shut out most contemporary metal surroundings and incorporate more progressive and fusion influences within my drumming technique. When I compose lyrics, it is basically an out-of-the-body experience for me, as my character transpires into another being—perhaps somebody I have spoken to or about in one of my previous songs. I honestly feel like I discuss “abstract situations” within “tales” when writing the poetry for an Absu hymn. I am an overly detailed individual and anybody who knows Absu should already know this bit of information.”
Is there any mythology in the world of heavy metal comparable with Absu’s?
“There are three bands that come to mind: Enslaved, Melechesh and Yes. I appreciate Enslaved’s music and lyrical thesis so much. Back in the early part of their career, they were concentrating more on Norse mythology and now they have advanced to keeping some of those archaic elements with combining elements of psychedelic and metaphysical meanings. Melechesh not only create chronicles regarding ancient Sumeria and Mesopotamia, but augment their themes with planetary/celestial elements and Chaldaen cosmology. I was actually a strong admirer of the band before I joined them in 1999 and yes, Ashmedi and I share a great amount of the same interests and influences, i.e. magic(k), ancient dynasties, Eastern mysticism, etc. Yes, on the other hand, delve strappingly in fantasy, as I am devotee of Jon Anderson’s work as a lyricist.”
Myths are by nature concerned with narratives that speak of the sacred and profound. What, therefore, is the most sacred aspect of Absu to you?
“Absu is the immense space, source of primeval waters where Ab, the father of the waters and lord of wisdom, lives. It is my abyss, my subconscious escape to an underworldly realm.”