are a well established act within the depressive black metal world. With their sophomore effort To Lay Like Old Ashes
being cited by a great many sources to be one of the pinnacles of the entire depressed world. Austere
have quite a reputation behind them and in my eyes are one of the quintessential bands within the genre. Their highly melancholic strain of black metal mixed in with some of the highest pitched shrieks known to man creates a stream of emotionally powerful music, and although a few of the edges needed sanding down overall Austere
have remained a hard hitting force.
Withering Illusions and Desolation
focuses on a very different wavelength from the somewhat critically acclaimed To Lay Like Old Ashes
. Here the band plays a more streamlined form of depressive black metal with very few of the melancholic overtones that would begin to define their latter releases.
The fuzz laden guitars create a powerful atmosphere, the riffing is suitably bleak and emotional, with a fair amount of originality taking place. There's a nice mix between melody and much more desolate, depressive parts. The riffs are varied and diverse, creating suitable amounts of depression and desolation where appropriate. The distortion is perfect for what the album requires, the guitars are very fuzzy and razor sharp. Misty would be a good way to describe them as the album as a whole appears to be shrouded in a thick blanket of mist adding a good sense of atmospheric weight to the music. ...Memories is the best example of this "misty" approach to the music, with an intro riff highly reminiscent of Life
's Bloody Melancholy
, it successfully creates a very bleak and hazy musical sound scape. The music feels as a whole, slightly labored and desperate, as though the musicians recorded it due to some painful duty rather than with any sort of passion. There's no real heart put into this, rather it basks in negativity. The album feels as a whole the result of musicians trying to communicate their pain to the outside world. It's not music meant to entertain, it's music with the sole goal of communicating internal turmoil and it does a good job of it.
The vocals in particular add the most emotional weight to the music. They're a set of incredibly high shrieks and howls. Whilst they can be criticized for being melodramatic and/or ridiculous, I find the overly tortured delivery to be highly suitable for Austere
's music. The vocal duties are handed by two vocalists, Desolate
(aka Tim Yatras). Desolate
supplies are Burzum
inspired howl whilst Sorrow
uses a much more agonizing shriek, They work suitably well together, creating some of the most vicious sounding shrieks and screams I've had the pleasure of listening to. They're also extremely unintelligible, making it very hard to decipher the lyrics underneath the howls. Half of the time the vocals devolve into a slew of overly tortured AAARRRGGGHHHH sounds with no real lyrics being obvious. The whole album sounds like an instrumental with incomprehensible wailing over the top, which creates quite an odd atmosphere. Needles to say the over top approach to the vocals makes for a very emotional and earnest listening experience.
Whilst I like Withering Illusions and Desolation
there are several flaws present. Most importantly is that the band has a lot of ideas that just tend to meander about, some of the tracks sound too stretched out and lacking a great deal of substance, It renders certain segments of the music quite hollow and atmospherically bland. Another problem is that the band strays far too close to the well trodden path of depressive black metal. With the exception of the vocals and a few riffs here and there Austere
lack any real identity on this one and it was only until later releases where they found their true calling. The riffs are the same melodic and desperate guitar lines we've heard a thousand times before. It's a shame really as there is some pretty good ideas on here. ...Memories is by far my favorite track as the riff that pops up half way through is original and well written. It's probably the most realized track on the album and shows Austere
with their feet firmly planted.
Whilst overall Withering Illusions and Desolation
is a solid depressive black metal record, there's a few flaws that need working on. Namely the lack of any true identity which renders several aspects of the music rather faceless. Also the outro track Coma
is essentially one of the most irritating songs I've ever come across, featuring a boring riff bing repeated well over 10 minutes it's frankly useless and halts the flow of an otherwise decent album. For what it is, I like it but I do think a much greater sense of variety would have gone a long way. Still, it's a treat for those of us who enjoy the genre, just don't expect anything groundbreaking.