Ahasver – Causa Sui Review
Have you ever heard the story of Ahasver, a forsaken quasi-biblical figure who ignored Jesus somewhere along the line? Now, he gets to wander around undying until the big guy comes back. That’s just a bit petty if you ask me, but if you ask Ahasver, the story functions as a much more brutal parable—a man must walk the earth in the face of all the terrors he has witnessed and ever that will unfold. But worry not, this isn’t a 90 minute rock opera nor a 60 bpm post metal languishing. This pedigree of furious Frenchman (including Julien Deyres of Gorod and Zubrowska fame) prefers to pontificate with chunky grooves, textured vocal aggression, and… a Carl Sagan reading?
In case you hadn’t figured out, Causa Sui1 stands a house emulsified by the inclusions of select genre powders, including groove, sludge, black, and mathcore. Even against ill-advised shout-rap breaks ripped from the “Rob Flynn book of things he invented” (“Fierce,” Dust”), or intensely thundered blast beat passages (“Peace,” “Wrath”), Ahasver leads with a strong sense of melody that keeps numbers from feeling too scattershot. In many ways, their cinematic but short-form compositions remind me of a less sprawling take on the ambitious sludge of The Ocean, right down to the primary vocalist’s2 uncanny resemblance to the versatility and timbre of Loïc Rossetti.
To navigate their decidedly un-Lazy Susan of spinning sonic flavors, Ahasver uses smartly startling switches to keep their grooving train on course. Choppy rhythms and jangling melodies build the foundation of Causa Sui, so breaking up the potential for monotony on tracks like “Tales” and “Wrath” with slow twists into blackened madness earns the record a lot of momentum. But machine-gun drums on low-end heavy riffs can still be exhausting. Borrowing a trick from many progressive sludge acts, Ahasver layers many clean voices in choruses to provide space against the slowly compressing environment (“Wrath,” “Sand”). And when tensions rise high enough to burst, Ahasver reaches out to weird guitar screeches that owe just as much to nu metal as they do The Dillinger Escape Plan (“Peace,” “Dust”)—an eclectic crossing of wires that just works.
Ultimately, though, Causa Sui has a concept to prove, and Ahasver doesn’t hold a tight grip on the narrative from end to end. For all the loftiness in promospeak that surrounds the profound take Ahasver brings to Ahasver, the opening duo of tracks function almost purely as exposition with little emotional resonance. In fact, it isn’t until we cross the midway point with “Path” that the band interjects some sort of interpreted attachment to try and connect us with the character’s plight: “There is no answer/There is no reason to your quest” a textured chorus echoes. But really, this singular shade of disillusionment with a god and humanity that Ahasver presents doesn’t compel me much. Follow-up “Sands” drags us along the same beaten path while also function as a segue to the extended closer, “King.” Not every band needs a massive end-piece, but Ahasver have chosen one nonetheless, except rather than approaching it from a sweeping, musical perspective, they allow Carl Sagan to provide an extended philosophical exploration that they themselves could not pen. I enjoy hearing the cosmic musings of the legendary astronomer, but here he simply acts as a crutch for poor story-telling.
Ahasver harbors too much instrumental talent to bring to the table something that isn’t at least somewhat stimulating, and, for a spin or two, I could work with what this debut had to offer: a well-stitched quilt of old metal trends presented in a tidy, glossy package. Unfortunately, it’s my job to attempt to give you an insight beyond a cursory listen.3 Causa Sui, in that regard, does not provide to this expansive metal universe a piece that grows the bounds of any genre, despite calling in quite a few to try. If Ahasver aimed to wander and exist, much in the way of their namesake, they achieved what they set out to do. If they had hoped for more, then there’s always next time, and I’ll be here waiting. Hopefully not until the second coming, though.