Austere - _Withering Illusions and Desolation_
(Those Opposed, 2008)
by: Nikola Shahpazov (7.5 out of 10)
Word back in the day was that Scandinavians excelled at their particular brand of genuinely sad metal due to lack of warm summer days and almost exclusively due to the general grimness of their surroundings -- fjords, picth black clouds and two feet of snow. This convenient formula is not all the way flawed, but serves as nothing when trying to explain how on earth ice-cold bands like Austere originate from the heat of Australia.

Even without two-month winters, local Viking heritage or fantastic recollections of the Helvette shop, this Australian duo delivers a record that can easily be a classic example of the now blossoming depressive black metal scene. From its first second on, _Withering Illusions and Desolation_ is a lesson in Burzum worship and a very conscious strife at creating the most desperately entrancing, suicide-provoking, morose release ever. With a general sound that is somewhere between _Filosofem_ and Wolves in the Throne Room's _Diadem of 12 Stars_, the album is dominated by fuzzy, heavily distorted guitar riffs dragging along forever and eventually developing into almost epic black metal themes. As is the case with other contemporary acts like Alcest, Austere's music is devoid of any aggression, a most peculiar even if flawed example of slow, disharmonic metal relying on ambience and rarely on speed or guitar hooks.

Another main feature of _Withering Illusions and Desolation_ are those melodramatic, soul-shredding, hard to endure screams that still don't mix as well with the music as did Varg's scream on _Hvis Lyset Tar Oss_ material. The grimness and suicidal seriousness of it all might be a tad over pretentious (not to mention those shrieks of what would be pure agonizing despair), but it comes out a well executed (even if repetitive and not at all inventive) record that I'm inclined to give a spin more than once a day. _Withering Illusions and Desolation_ proves a great companion to the seemingly endless days of autumnal greyness. Add a glass or two of fine red wine to the closing eighteen minutes of "Coma" to intensify the experience.


(article published 24/10/2008)

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