NonFor an album that was promoted to me as depressive/atmospheric black/death metal, Hope Dies First, the lead out track from Austrian one man band Nonexistence is a quiet beautiful, bleak and compelling slice of Funeral Doom with the kind of grandiose yet turned inwards inflections of Brazilian maestros Mythological Cold Towers.The black metal however come straight in with follow up song Vast Abysses Inside where the drum battery and vocals are in full force with a more up-tempo rhythm but still with a wild, bleak and chilling atmosphere. The true nature of the album asserts itself fully on Shroud Of Distress, when some clean vocals appear and the hidden prog wings unfurl.

Exposed to the cold air of Antarctica, Nonexistence here create a sound that at its slowest flirts with Ahab a little and in its quicker and more rhythmic songs draws on a far less chaotic or baroque Arcturus and mid to current period Borknagar, which is kind of damning with faint praise to those who have heard me lament on the ways of the latter of late.

The first thing to overcome here is how totally different that lead out track is from the rest if the album. If it wasn’t for the vocals you’d think it was a different band and the refrain of “turn away from this…” resonates so immediately and so deeply that you end up thinking that you’ve heard it somewhere before. The second thing is the next shift in gear on the third song when the prog really kicks in: Initially stately and enveloping, the more those phrasings come in, a little Limbonic Art like in both the keyboard approach and the metaphysical, cosmic lyrics, the more it begins to fall away from me. Yes, I know I have a particular problem with the excesses of prog, but here for me it is where the cold and the bleak enveloping atmosphere slip off like a satin cloth from a polished table.

This is however undeniably a strong album: For just one example the small pinches of the orchestral and the Emperor-esque keyboards meets Borknagar pomp and prog vocals of Multiverse, my third favorite track here, are beautifully composed so please don’t take my personal aversion as dismissive of the album or artist. If you have a head for this you will be unlikely to find a better, more flowing piece of expansive black metal atmosphere music so far this year. I just got lost in the whiteout I’m afraid.

But that opening song…..

This is a hard one to score as it hits an impenetrable spot in me and so despite reviewing being a subjective role, I am compelled to emphasise some objective thoughts here if only to be fair. So for me a what if, sadly. But proggy attuned black metal fans? Possibly your first essential purchase of 2013.

(6.5/10 Gizmo)