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Review: Austere - To Lay Like Old Ashes
To Lay Like Old Ashes

Label: Eisenwald
Year released: 2009
Duration: 54:41
Tracks: 6
Genre: Black Metal

Rating: 4/5

Review online: April 15, 2009
Reviewed by: Brett Buckle
Readers Rating
To Lay Like Old Ashes

Rated 4.36/5 (87.14%) (14 Votes)

Once again I dive headlong into an hour of depressive Black Metal, letting the waves of despondency wash over me like the blood of so many dead emo kids. Ahh, but I am being a bit harsh there, this is no angsty, nobody understands the trouble I feel, teenage pretend punk! This is atmospheric Black Metal, brandishing depression like a knife, set to cut throats instead of wrists. Thus it is with Australia's Austere and their sophomore full length To Lay Like Old Ashes, an album that takes its direction from the Strid-spawned pits of bleak Black Metal and tweaks it enough so as to make their own mark on the genre.

Opening with a calming acoustic piece, thin and airy with some ambient vocal humming, Austere paint the picture of mid-winter sorrow very effectively. When the drums and guitars enter the effect is not dismissed but enhanced. The repetitive soundscape giving way to wide chord progression and, unfortunately, some of the most terrible fucking screaming I have ever heard. I do not know if there are actual lyrics, I assume there are, but they are utterly opaque through the high pitched wailing. It ruins the effect, as they wear their despair on their shirtsleeve, and it is a bit at odds with the music. The music is reminiscent of Nyktalgia, especially in the segues between riffs and the minor progressions, but it is not crafted as skillfully or as effectively. Thankfully things improve on "This Dreadful Emptiness" as the vocals of Desolate (of Funeral Mourning "fame") are much harsher and fouler, being more suited to the dirge like dispirit thrust ear-ward by the track. Not long into the song we are accosted by blast beats and double bass, and they are a welcome ingredient to the ever draining riffs that tremolo away, often majestic in presentation. Sadly, the drums are mechanical, sometimes distractingly so, especially with the flat but overly loud bass drum, and the album would definitely have benefited from toning it down a notch. "This Dreadful Emptiness" also sees the introduction of some superbly executed clean vocals as well that soaringly complement the sorrow laden riffs. The vocals end up being quite varied as the album progresses, taking on an almost rock-ish element later on the title track, and the almost radio-friendly and balladic "Just For a Moment…" (the Aussie accent is a different and welcome element). The diversity is most definitely appreciated, and the ear piercing wailing becomes less and less as the album progresses as well, and largely because of this it seems to get better as it goes. Austere are able to manifest this sense of grandeur alongside the atmosphere of dejection quite effectively and it lends a dynamic to the album that is so often missing from the unending cheerlessness of most DSBM. The 20 minute closer "Coma II" is a repetitive and harrowing track that will test the mettle of even the staunchest metal fan. It is very easy to picture the barren soul doling out that morose guitar pattern into an empty room, all hope having fled long ago.

To Lay Like Old Ashes is not a masterpiece but it is a damn fine example of the genre. I can't imagine anyone who enjoys this style of DSBM will not enjoy this, but by the same token it is not going to win many new fans to the genre either. There is nothing truly original on display here, but that clearly is not the point – Austere have delivered an album with plenty of memorable riffs and melodies wrapped in an atmosphere of winter shores and Australian tablelands rather than the barren snowfields of deep winter Europe, and that is enough to separate them out from the rest.

Other related information on the site
Review: To Lay Like Old Ashes (reviewed by Pagan Shadow)
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