Austere - Beneath The Threshold

Artist: Austere

Album Title: Beneath The Threshold

Label: Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions

Date of Release: 5 April 2024

It was almost exactly the same time last year that I received my first taste of the music of Austere, via their long-awaited third album, ‘Corrosion Of Hearts’. Seemingly making up for lost time then, the Australian duo of Mitchell ‘Desolate’ Keepin (guitars, keys, vocals) and Tim ‘Sorrow’ Yatras (drums, keys, vocals) return within twelve months with ‘Beneath The Threshold’, their fourth album.

In keeping with my generally positive view of ‘Corrosion Of Hearts’, I have also enjoyed this latest offering from the duo, although, to my ears, there’s been a little bit of a shift in the approach taken with the music here. The output on ‘Corrosion of Hearts’ was predominantly within the atmospheric black metal and blackgaze realms, despite a penchant for longer, more drawn-out compositions that were less about blastbeats and icy, razor-sharp staccato riffing than might normally be the case. Theirs was very much an approach that focused on those dark atmospheres and emotions above most else. With ‘Beneath The Threshold’, those elements are even more pronounced, with moves in other directions also.

The opening track, ‘Thrall’ actually reminds me of that period in Katatonia’s career, around ‘Discouraged Ones’ or slightly earlier, when they were transitioning from a death/doom metal band into something less extreme in that sense. There’s a Gothic sheen to the track as it builds gently via a gentle guitar melody, before blossoming into a mid-paced affair with heavy guitar notes, evocative lead lines, and that Katatonia-esque repetition of a strong central riff and melody. The vocals remain raspy and buried within the mix so as not to overwhelm the gorgeously rich soundscape. And that recurring lead guitar pinched harmonic embellishment from within the bowels of the song is a touch that I find incredibly addictive and enjoyable. Clean vocals emerge later in the song, ironically as the rhythms become slightly faster and more intense.

Unlike its predecessor which only contained four songs across its 45-minute life span, ‘Beneath The Threshold’ offers us six over a 42-minute period. This obviously means that there’s a slight reduction in the length of the individual songs here, but this does not impact negatively in my opinion on the way that Austere are able to take their time to create the moods and emotions within their music. This is definitely to their credit and demonstrates a honing of their collective songwriting abilities.

‘The Sunset Of Life’, one of just two tracks that extends beyond the nine-minute mark is a song that pulls in a few more of those atmospheric black metal elements akin to the last album. Again, it’s not a blast-fest, but it features much more in the way of gruff vocal aggression, and a slight increase in pace and intensity. The clean vocals, when they emerge, carry more of that Gothic/darkwave feel to them but again it’s the melodic nature of the composition that ensures that it grabs me and keeps me enthralled, especially in the second half as something altogether more epic and atmospheric emerges after a brief min-song hiatus.

Austere - Beneath The Threshold
Credit: A Saturnus

The clean vocals, meanwhile, are the standout element of the much shorter ‘Faded Ghost’, pleading to the heavens as they do alongside elegant melodies and a palpable sense of misery and melancholy. ‘Cold Cerecloth’, then once again dials up the Katatonia-isms, at least to begin with, within the opening guitar riff in particular. The mix of clean and gruff vocals is nicely worked, sharing the spotlight equally, whilst I adore the full-on atmospheric black metal assault that kicks in in the latter stages. Here, those us who do enjoy the faster black metal drumming and riffing are sated somewhat, whilst it’s a great advert for the technical abilities of both musicians without ever compromising on the melodic intent that clearly sits at the heart of the Austere modus operandi.

To underline that, ‘Words Unspoken’ is a three-minute instrumental composition that’s comprised of acoustic guitars, clean strings, and swathes of synths which together create a beautifully simple and emotive piece of music, full of whimsical melodic charm.

‘Beneath The Threshold’ then ends with the other nine-minute composition, ‘Of Severance’ and happily for my tastes, the pace is once again increased so that we can hear some powerful drumming and more icy staccato riffing. Unless I’m completely mistaken, too, the chosen melodies are not quite so melancholy, with a sense of vague hope and positivity creeping through the dark, dense cracks to end the album on a vaguely different note to what’s gone before.

Whilst I may have liked a little more of the faster material along the way, I can’t help but be very impressed by Austere and ‘Beneath The Threshold’. It’s an atmospheric black metal record with some properly strong atmosphere as well as an eagerness to explore different ideas and influences both within and slightly outside the oft-rigid framework. The melodies are wonderful, the production is powerful, and the whole thing comes together to create a really excellent listening experience from beginning to end.

The Score of Much Metal: 90%



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