Australia may not be the first place you think of when you go looking for metal, but it seems to be the case that it’s quality over quantity where they are concerned. Take Rise of Avernus for example. These Sydney natives are practitioners of progressive gothic doom; a style generally synonymous with cold, bleak and miserable areas of the world, but I’ll be damned if these guys (and girl) haven’t nailed the formula completely and then improved on it. ‘L’Appel Du Vide’ (or ‘The Call of the Void) is their debut full length album, and in case you hadn’t worked it out yet, it is rather impressive.
It takes just one drumbeat to realise that the album is going to sound enormous, and its rich and layered production is well matched to the effort and care put into the composition. From orchestral arrangements to soulful saxophones and blasting drums, there is a lot to fit in and make sense of. In its basic form, Rise of Avernus remind me most of Draconian over their last two albums, with Ben Vanvollenhoven’s powerful yet guttural growls providing the perfect antidote in Catherine Giurguis’s soulful and passionate voice. The guitars are far more understated than I was expecting, and with a few soaring leads on some of the heavier tracks it would have added greatly to the overall sound. That minor issue aside though, there is plenty of variation here to keep you on your toes.
The thing that really stands out about this album is the different styles that it manages to incorporate, yet never managing to lose the overall thread. The songs can be enjoyed as individual tracks, but the album works so well as a whole it almost becomes a tragedy to experience it any other way. To listen to the quieter and more soulful tracks in isolation is to lose some of the overall impact, as it is the juxtaposition with the more aggressive tracks that brings out the emotion more succinctly, (not that any of them could really be described as outright aggressive). In ‘As Soleness Recedes’ we find the album reaching its climax in a manner in which it truly deserves, with a slow burning track that builds into a minor gothic doom classic, with Ben displaying a rather excellent clean voice to rival Catherine’s in terms of talent and technique. The track builds toward a bombastic finish with the pair trading phrases as the guitars and strings bring things to a dramatic close. It really is a perfect and fitting end.
Bands of this ilk are almost two a penny these days, so to stand out from the crowd you either have to have enormous amounts of talent or you have to bring something a little different to the party. Rise of Avernus do both and with great success. Although their styles are very different, they remind me a lot of fellow Australians Ne Obliviscaris in that they go above and beyond what we come to expect from a band these days in terms of musical composition and album concept. There is a lot of thought, time and love in this album and it absolutely pays dividends. Whilst I liked this on my first listen I have grown to love it over the past few weeks and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all fans of gothic doom. This is one of the most mature and engaging debuts that I have heard in a long time and I hope that we hear a lot more from them in the future.
(9/10 Lee Kimber)