Austere – Beneath the Threshold Review

Austere’s third full-length, and first album in fourteen years, was one of my biggest disappointments of 2023. Corrosion of Hearts was listenable as a pleasant form of DSBM, but showcased a unique and legendary act fall into the tropes of the genre. It felt as though depressive black metal moved on while Austere stayed stuck in the past, and I’ll be the first one to admit that expectations were unfairly high for this duo. Austere on To Lay Like Old Bones is no longer – the Austere of now is more important. In many ways, this is what makes Beneath the Threshold even more crucial.

The duo, comprised of members Desolate and Sorrow,1 has a storied history, releasing 2007’s Withering Illusions and Desolation and 2009’s To Lay Like Old Ashes in a depressive metonymy of the outback’s blazing sun rather than Scandinavia’s frigid woods, to widespread acclaim. Austere’s Corrosion of Hearts was released last year, a depressive and aptly scathing affair that suddenly felt shrouded in cold fog – a jarring departure. We are met with Beneath the Threshold less than a year later, a continuation of Corrosion but far more cohesive and memorable than its predecessor – basking in cold and clarity alike. While imperfect and stalwart in a painfully mundane style of black metal, its melodic approach and appreciation for texture sets Austere a step above.

Beneath the Threshold by Austere

Right off the bat, it feels as though Austere returns refreshed and vigorous. While still melancholy, opener “Thrall” simmers with an undercurrent of vigor, melodic motifs overlapping and moving with impressive fluidity and organicity, recalling Harakiri for the Sky’s template of heart-wrenching black metal. This impressive flow is followed elsewhere by “Cold Cerecloth” and closer “Of Severance,” gentleness leading to explosions of heartache, allowing the simplicity of chord progressions and melodic leads to carry the movements. Clear highlight “The Sunset of Life” maintains largely the same methods, but the hissing vocals are searing with pain rather than dwelling in despondence, while the driving dirges showcase a desperation needed in DSBM.2 Clean vocals are more present in Beneath the Threshold, which have a potential to derail, but cry out in abysmal depths in “Thrall” and “The Sunset of Life.” Contrasting with Corrosion of Hearts, Austere’s production and mixing feel far clearer and more fiery, rarely allowing moments of boredom.

Austere’s approach feels far more clarified in Beneath the Threshold, but there are some minor issues. “Faded Ghost,” for instance, is a slower and more ambiance-based track with clean vocals featured more prominently, unfairly sandwiched between the grandiosity of “The Sunset of Life” and the urgency of “Cold Cerecloth,” and loses a bit of the despondence and melancholy it might successfully provide elsewhere. Similarly, interlude track “Words Unspoken” feels a bit out of place, as Austere’s focus on synth sprawls contrasts harshly with the album’s emphasis on guitar. On a far more minor note, some tracks feel drawn out slightly too long, with ending passages of “The Sunset of Life” or “Of Severance” slightly overstaying. While Beneath the Threshold is head-above-shoulders better than its predecessor, it nonetheless does little to stray from the depressive path.

DSBM in general is morose and boring, and the fact that Corrosion of Hearts played into that stereotype after fourteen years of silence made it much more frustrating. However, Austere manages to make Beneath the Threshold sound fresh and vigorous without forsaking the key tenets of misery and melancholy. While not perfect with a few issues of flow and solidarity, it nonetheless feels like a new chapter for the band, one that has put the last nail in the coffin of the past and emerges ready to once again take the style by storm.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Lupus Lounge
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 5th, 2024

The post Austere – Beneath the Threshold Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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