AustereSorrow and Desolate are the names of the two players here coming from a land that really puts the downer in down under! You can tell this is not going to be a happy album but if you had already done your history lesson you should already be well versed in its miseries. Austere are now dead but Eisenwald have kindly re-issued their debut and some would say landmark album from 2007, re-mastered so all those tortured screams and depressive melodies can be more heart-wrenching than ever.

As you no doubt know old Sorrow is better known as Tim Yatras and after disbanding acts like Austere and Woods Of Desolation he found a certain amount of success with his project Germ (although he has plenty of other things on the boil too). Equally busy in the likes of Nazxul, Ill Omen and Temple Nightside the Desolate Mitchell Keepin has also moved on from this project and although Austere disbanded around second excellent album To Lay Like Old Ashes in 2009 this is a very welcome look back to the deep dark depths of their early sound.

Songs are long and incredibly involving. Whereas you can easily hear the sound that Germ have gone onto with incredibly albums like the recent ‘Wish’ here it is stripped of all joy and the upbeat feel of such songs is completely lacking. It’s kind of like comparing the original Evil Dead with the recent remake and watching the reboot hating the fact that it is devoid of all the humour and slapstick of the classic version. There is nothing here except torture and misanthropy. The vocal screams are embittered and prolonged with a raw primitivism and tortured feel of both remorse and hatred as they scream and bite. The guitar and bass tones are rich, indeed as ….Memories broods in they are sorrowful and autumnal sounding like they are coming as everything prepares to shrivel up and die in their wake. This is naturally highly atmospheric for those who can take the prolonged agony of the songs, if you can you will find yourself wallowing in them. They draw you in hypnotically and the repeated dark shrouds encase you in their angst and misery; it’s quite a beautiful place to find yourself in. There are actually lyrics behind the high pitched screams believe it or not! I have a hard time doing so but have found some for the first couple of numbers. Written by Sorrow they are as poetic as the emotional pitch of the music itself. “Even if you turn your memories into a beautiful lie you’re all alone. When the icy wind blows into day breaks sky The birds can’t fly”

It’s a bit like taking a journey through a cycle which having started at Unending Night becomes quite reflective by the time it reaches ‘The Dawn Remains Silent.’ It’s a ponderous and not such an urgent track at first and the drumming in particularly shines through when it does pick up the pace as though it has suddenly come out of hibernation. There is at times a feel of early Drudkh about the moods and atmosphere this evokes and the music on Withering Illusions And Desolation’ does reflect on this to a certain extent reminding me of them at their finest era circa Forgotten Legends. Unlike the Ukrainians though who have  plodded on and overburdened us with albums that have lacked somewhat perhaps Austere made the right decision to call it a day when they did rather than go down this route.

For me the albums crowning glory is 18 minute closer ‘Coma,’ which with its one word clue this instrumental does exactly as described, lulling you into a blissful place as it repetitively builds with fantastic skill and magnificent grace. Even if it was conceived on the other side of the world from mighty Norse forests that no doubt derived this template the magickal shamanic tones of this track are second to none. Austere went on to explore this for a further 20 minutes on second album ‘To Lay Like Old Ashes’ in the form of Coma II and that’s exactly what’s getting played next by me. If you missed ‘Withering Illusions…’ first time round and like your blackness heavily depressive this is pretty much an essential purchase.

(8/10 Pete Woods)