Austere (Australia) – Withering Illusions And Desolation

Goddamn, I’m totally torn here.  On one hand, ‘Withering Illusions And Desolation’ is a good suicidal black metal album which, when you appropriately suspend your disbelief, is emotionally powerful.  On the other hand, it’s some of the most hysterical goddamn music I’ve ever heard.  If you think that Silencer is melodramatic, you haven’t heard shit compared to Austere, who reach and exceed Happy Days levels of ridiculousness throughout this disc.  I can suspend my disbelief for it sometimes and inhabit a world in my head where stuff this cheesy ISN’T totally dumb, but it requires a LOT of effort on my part.

The good: I like the misty, arpeggiated guitar riffs.  They’re very melodic and traditionally sad, but the precise breed of melody is unique enough to make them worthwhile.  They’re nicely textured, and the (actually fairly audible) bass forms a nice, rolling undercurrent below the fog-drenched guitars.  The drumming is appropriately restrained, with periodic fills punctuating long stretches of double bass or trundling rock beats; nothing special, but effective.  The vocals are a set of INCREDIBLY high and melodramatic shrieks.  I’m talking about a Nazgul sort of pitch here; I don’t know how it’s attainable by a human male at all, since half the time it sounds like a prepubescent girl getting ripped in half.  Fortunately, it works pretty well in the context of the music, which is uniformly solid: there’s a lot of great riffs, such as that which pops up midway through ‘…Memories’.  They’re original and well written.

On the other hand, it’s totally fucking ridiculous.  Half the riffs are SO sad that they totally pass the point of being tastefully depressive and just move into Alcest levels of gay melancholy, like the opening riff in ‘Unending Night’.  Along with the deliberately grim drum and bass performances, the instrumental front alone is enough to inspire snickers in those not correctly prepared for this sort of music.  But really, it’s the vocals which send it into totally laugh-inducing territory.  If you giggle at Nattramn, you’ll be holding your sides as Austere’s dual vocalists howl their little hearts out.  Half the time it doesn’t even sound like there are lyrics; it’s just an endless precession of overly-tortured AIEEEEEEEEEEEEAHHHHHHHHH sounds.  ‘…Memories’ is probably the worst offender, when about a third of the way through one of the singers just goes insane and starts letting out little stacatto bunny-caught-in-a-meat-grinder shrieks out of nowhere.

In all honesty, I sometimes wonder if this is designed to be a sendup of the suicidal black metal scene, as it is about as clichéd and stereotypical as the genre gets.  Most of the time I listen to this, it’s just the most ridiculous crap in the world and I can’t even pay attention to the music because I’m too busy laughing at it.  But the other sliver of times I listen to it, it all comes together and is actually as amazing as it desperately tries to be.  When it’s a little more restrained, like on ‘The Dawn Remains Silent’, I can get behind it more.  Most of the time it’s just fucking ridiculous though.  I don’t know, if you’re one of those dedicated fans of suicidal black metal who takes it overly seriously and is unable to see the latent humor in the genre, you’ll probably love this.  Everyone else can likely pass because it’s just so silly.


~ by noktorn on July 28, 2008.

One Response to “Austere (Australia) – Withering Illusions And Desolation”

  1. BURZUM influence is evident.

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