The world of heavy metal is a wide, open abyss of indefinite possibilities and if you play your cards right, the chances of you standing out and being heard amongst the many members in this world, are good. Sydney’s own four-piece doom metal outfit Rise of Avernus is a prime example of a band that has slowly yet successfully carved their own niche in metal, bringing forth a style of heavy music that, honestly, I can put no label on. I use ‘doom’ as a general term here but that is not all that this band is, and certainly far from what their latest release represents. After their last EP, ‘Dramatis Personae‘ which recieved rave reviews, comes the follow up and the band’s fourth release, ‘Eigengrau‘.
The sounds of “Terminus” provide a majestic start to Rise of Avernus’ latest offering, which as soon as it began, had me visualising the gates of Asgard opening to commanding beats and a cinematic soundscape. This epic intro in itself is a sign that the band has evolved so beautifully with their sound dynamic, definitely giving the listener a taste of what’s to come. The following track “Ad Infinitum” steps very slightly into the realms of black metal but only just, the underlying darkness of it being guided primarily by the haunting nature of it’s melodies. Gripping you throughout, the beautfully chaotic mixture of tempos coupled with brilliant symphonic arragements will only have you wanting more and more. Keyboardist and vocalist Mares comes in providing some of the most emotive, yet gruesome vocals complimenting Ben’s more guttural tones so perfectly, the duo continuing this captivating aural assault throughout the album. The song has an unpredictable ending; coming to an ambient close in a way I would have never expected from them but one that transitions perfectly into the next song.
“Gehanna”, probably one of the darkest tracks on this album entices the listener with an eerie slow-paced intro, like it should be the soundtrack to a historical documentary, but gets heavier with time. The instrumentation is a class apart as seen in this track bringing together an array of elements and sounds . Ben’s clean vocals are mesmerising to say the least and quite literally soar along the length of the track to killer riffs (with a sweet little ballad section in the middle) and an incredibly magnificent atmosphere that is sure to send chills down your spine. But what really enhances the originality of this track are the traditional and ethnic vibes in the form of chants, (pretty sure I can hear a didge in there somewhere), and the general tone of the track, exhibiting how beautifully the band has evolved. As you progress through the journey that is Eigengrau, one that is dark but with a glimmer of grey, you cannot help but embrace the sheer ingenuity behind the plethora of moods, tones and diverse layers that it is made up of.
“Eigenlicht” has a sublime acoustic beginning, which leads into a section instantly reminsiecnt of “Path to Shekinah” from their previous release, tracks that make Rise of Avernus’ music extremely accessible. The transitions are unpredictable and hypnotic, switching from a solemn ambient section, and mellow harmonies, to really punchy guitar riffs that flow along smoothly with the piano’s melodies and vocals that will summon your soul. It’s a track like this which proves just how out-of-the-box Rise is, defying any ability to categorise and label their music. “Tempest” has the best intro on this album, one that is tribal and enthralling and builds up into a track that feels as if you are listening to a really intense theatrical play (with a special metallic twist of course). Every track on this album has an entity of it’s own and Tempest is that really sly, cheeky demigod of a track that loves causing chaos but in the most subtle way possible.
The obscure, theatrical vibe continues on “Forged in Eidolon” and is as symphonic as it gets. The orchestral instrumentations will validate comaprisons to the likes of Septicflesh, however, Rise have mastered this sound with a charm of their own. The vibrant choral chants, thick bass lines coupled with the groove-laden class of Andrew Craig’s drumming really pulls together some of the band’s strong points. The rhythmic tempo of this track which will have you air-conducting an imaginary zombie orchestra is breathtaking as is the piano passages that will undoubtedly send you into a trance. While instrumental piece and aptly named “Mimicry” – another strong track, dark and haunting, unveils an important part of this story, the final chapter ‘Into Aetherium’, is where the epicness truly lies. A beautifully progressive yet heavy track that boasts tranquil piano melodies interwoven with slow-tempo riffs – or atleast, that’s what you’re made to think. What begins as a soft, and melodic farewell, builds up into a frenzied piece of crushing black metal riffs, monstrous vocals and blast beats only to completely fade out into oblivion.
‘Eigengrau‘ is an incredible journey in itself; one that evokes powerful emotions. As you progress and make your way through this journey, you discover hidden gems along the way, each one a reminder of the band’s scintillating persona. A musical tapestry so to speak, every element woven into this doom metal masterpiece comes together beautifully to create music that well and truly marks a new era for Rise of Avernus. Mint production, thought-provoking lyrical themes, the evocative and soulful tones of each composition, not to mention Seth Siro Anton’s glorious artwork on the album cover, there isn’t possibly any way I can fault this album. The band’s versatility is further highlighted and established by their willingness to experiment in ways that sets them apart. Eigengrau is the embodiment of symphonic death/black metal’s mystical charm, power and intensity, a symbol of Rise’s uncompromising style and undeniably, a contender for one of the best releases this year will see.