May 17, 2023

Album Review - Austere "Corrosion of Hearts"

Album Review -  Austere

After a lengthy hiatus, Australian depressive black metal legends Austere are back with their first album since 2009’s To Lay Like Old Ashes. The two-piece band consists of Desolate (Mitchell Keepin) on guitar/bass and Sorrow (Tim Yatras) on drums, with both members contributing keyboards and vocals. During their long break from Austere, both musicians kept busy with involvement in several other projects. On the subject of their other projects, I’d also recommend checking out Tim’s now retired former project Grey Waters. This project was little more in the shoegaze/dark metal vein, but with similar emotional weight to Austere. 

In a genre particularly known for revelling in harsh low-fi production, Corrosion of Hearts sounds great. The guitar sound is of course heavily distorted, but this doesn’t prevent the melodies from shining through and the whole album is full of incredible riffs. Tim’s drumming is clear and organic, and remains mostly minimalist but with occasional tasteful flourishes. The vocals blend clean singing with harsh screams, at times sounding quite distant and in the background of the mix. These harsh vocals are often quite tormented, such as at the end of A Ravenous Oblivion.

Something that stands out with Austere is their ability to layer multiple guitar parts and weave musical textures to create incredibly bleak and atmospheric music. It’s an emotive but mature approach to song writing that showcases the experience of the Mitchell and Tim. With repeat listens there are always little intricacies to discover, like the beautiful choral part over the main riff on Sullen. In this sense, Austere have picked up from where they left off in 2009, although the production Corrosion of Hearts on is more polished and the sound a little richer compared to their previous material. The band have maintained the same beautiful, miserable simplicity and the same commitment to using layered music to evoke emotion and craft their bleak aesthetic. Austere employ keyboards to great effect, creating a beautiful but bleak atmosphere, with an example being the use of ambient noise at the beginning at the opening of A Ravenous Oblivion. While Austere remain a unique musical entity, there are moments on this album that are reminiscent of Agalloch at their peak, such as the melodic lead A Ravenous Oblivion or the deep, rasping vocals on the album closer Pale. The third track, The Poisoned Core, is perhaps the highlight of the album and demonstrates once again the band’s powerful use of keyboards. Pale is a beautiful song with which to close the album, with the fading distorted guitars and the sustained, stark keyboard holding a single note, as the album itself fades into the oblivion from which it came.