Released: 2012, Apathia Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
‘Introspective’ is the first full length release from French avantgarde black metal collective Abstrusa Unde. Due to the abandonment of the over ambitious original concept, it is an album which nearly did not make it into existence. A 20 minute demo of the previous incarnation is the only product of this earlier period.
Despite being scaled back, ‘Introspection’ is still grandiose; however I expect it would have been more unique in its original imagining. 8 full time members bring together a range of musical directions, including electro-jazz and black/symphonic metal, resulting in a gothic cabaret vibe overall.
Opening track ‘Introspection’ puts me in mind of silent movie piano music, and in no way betrays the approaching black metal sounds of ‘Hamsa Lonri’. A song where gentle, yet strong female vocals soothe male back metal vocals, which are accompanied by symphonic keys and chugging guitars. It is a complex and engaging song. As with many of the lyrics on this release, they are in an invented undecipherable language inspired by Lisa Gerrard’s glosalalia.
Next track ‘Al Aklorodan’ is one of contrasts, starting with high-pitched female vocals, which are then accompanied with low male vocals and blast beats, behind which there are violins, cello and keys. Unfortunately the female vocals are at a pitch just on the edge of jarring, making this a slightly uncomfortable listen. However the composition is faultless and once again maintains the listener’s interest with unexpected twists throughout.
Next up is ‘Carrousel’ which at just under 10 minutes duration, is the longest song of the eight (not including the bonus). Fairground organ and samples of children playing, gives way to gentle strings and female vocals, until black metal vocals and accents, backed with hints of organ pipes come in give it a heavier sound. The atmosphere is reminiscent of ‘Antichrist’ era Marilyn Manson.
Once again this is a varied song, but of the formula already established in those preceding. It is saved by the formulaic sequence ceasing halfway through, to be replaced by an interlude of effects, before moving into classic symphonic black metal, although more theatrical than most.
‘The Gutter’ is a two minute black metal jazz ditty and an opportunity to show off the diverse musical skills of the group. There is a Danny Elfmann vibe going on here and for someone not a fan of jazz it is thankfully short!
‘Hastra Na’ consists of the now typical contrast of melodic female vocals backed with ethereal sounds, against masculine metal vocals backed with blackened metal. Again with are multiple turns.
Chanted vocals provide a ritualistic atmosphere to the heavier verses.
Penultimate ‘Lost for Life’ features the harshest symphonic black metal of the album, with a surprise at the mid-point of sweet feminine vocals.
When taken together, closing song ‘Suune Kvalta’ and the accompanying bonus track, becomes a 15 minute epic, encompassing all of the devices we by now associate with Abstrusa Unde’s style. It is theatrical, contrasting while confluent, engaging and interesting. As expected the bonus track is the most experimental of all with interestingly original ideas for a black metal piece.
Immediate comparisons which come to mind are Lacimosa and Dimmu Borgir, but it is idealistically akin to Nightwish’s current cinematic opus ‘Imaginerium’. ‘Introspection’ was originally self released in April 2011, but this review of is the re-release distributed by Apathia Records in 2012.
I suspect it would have come across as more original with a greater impact, had there been better coverage at time of self-release. Instead releases such as Lacrimosa’s ‘Revolution’ and the aforementioned Nightwish release, have stolen its thunder theatrics wise, which is a shame when considerable talent which has gone into its creation.
Due to professional compositions and excellent production, it is something fans of symphonic and experimental black metal should check out.
Abstrusa Unde are looking for gigs to promote this release, it would certainly be an experience in a live setting!
Review by Victoria Fenbane