For their second full-length release, Sydney’s Rise of Avernus have stripped back a lot of the operatic elements that characterized their debut. Instead, with Eigengrau, they’ve opted for a more extreme symphonic metal sound akin to that of Septic Flesh and… well… Septic Flesh really are the major point of reference for this one.
This second effort is a massive step up from their debut. While L’Appel du vide (2013) showed a ton of promise, and was even heavily lauded amid certain circles, it felt nowhere near like the finished article. Much of that record’s compositional chops were obscured behind a dull, flat mix (handled by Jens Bogren curiously enough), such that it ultimately failed to breach the realms of potentiality. With Eigengrau, the band haven’t quite “come into their own” as such, but its a definitive step in the right direction. Logan Mader‘s presence behind the mixing desk is immediately felt, with the ex-Machine Head and Once Human guitarist bringing a dynamic clarity to the record – bestowing it with a much needed (and well-deserved) impact all but absent from their first record. However, it isn’t just the improved presentation that renders this record a superior product when compared with its predecessor.
Eigengrau boasts a similarly refined songwriting quality that, while arguably simplified, makes for a much more striking listening experience. Where much of L’Appel du vide felt needlessly cluttered, each moment of this album comes across as being very deliberate and often open-sounding in a way that perfectly benefits its intrinsically dense premise. Rather than bombarding the listener with orchestral arrangements, they are instead employed sparingly, at choice moments to accentuate an already-established canvass. As such, Eigengrau is a much moodier and more rhythmically-based listening experience than Rise of Avernus have offered up in the past. Yet, while this new approach makes for a far more immediately rewarding and ultimately more accomplished offering, it also remains a largely one-dimensional one.
Where Eigengrau can be found lacking is exactly in those elements it so deliberately downplays The core of this album’s appeal is built around its rhythmic components and, while there are plenty of exhilarating double-bass barrages and abrasive tremolo sections to be found throughout the record, these moments lack the staying power of the all too rare melodic passages that crop up all too infrequently. As stated at the top of this review, there isn’t all that much more to say about this record than that it pulls off a decent Septic Flesh impression – that is SF bassist/vocalist Seth Siro Anton’s distinctive artwork adorning its cover after all – and, given just how far the Greeks are ahead of their respective, that alone is nothing to scoff at.
Yet it is the moments where Rise of Avernus deviate from their set template that prove the album’s most rewarding. The melodramatic vocals and Gothic textures lavished on so heavily during the mid section of “Gehenna” recalls Icon/Draconian Times-era Paradise Lost, while the stampeding melodic assault that kicks off “Eigenlicht” brings to mind the similar barrages of Amon Amarth or those similar, albeit, less drastically-removed barrages of their homegrown companions in Be’lakor. Perhaps its just the brief glimpses of broader horizons they offer, but it’s these two all-too-fleeting moments that prove Eigengrau‘s most memorable and which offer the most convincing avenues for future development.
Rise of Avernus aren’t quite there yet, but they show clear signs of being capable of developing into extreme metal titans if given time to further refine their approach, and Eigengrau is easily the most convincing piece of evidence they’ve offered up in support of that assessment.
Eigengrau comes out January 19, courtesy of Code666 records.