Absorb Melee was the percentage at which melee damage done to the player was reduced, this could be found on the equip screen under defence bonuses. The absorb melee stat came into effect if more than 200 life points of damage have been taken in one hit.
Magic armour which had no melee defence bonuses offered higher soaking rates than melee armour. Even a Mystic robe top offered higher melee absorption than the platebody of one of the Barrows brothers, with Ahrim's robes far outranking any melee armour in melee damage soaking. This was in favour of magicians in the combat triangle.