“Ok guys, we’ve got 29 minutes to create a good impression – so let’s get to work,’ I imagine Rise of Avernus saying to each other with eager glances as they headed into the studio for the recording of their latest EP. They’ve certainly called in the big guns – or gun at least – with a guest appearance mid-album from Enslaved vocalist Grutle Kjellson. And the first impression is good. Opening track In The Absence of Will is a shining beacon of rasping, doomy, melodeath complete with well honed production and crisp orchestral backing. And, like a tasty looking musical sandwich, the final track exemplifies the other end of the band’s artistic scale with a perfectly executed doom farewell trailing into a classy doom-death outro. It’s a big sound these guys are going for – with a distinct power metal edge to the gothic doom and death metal base – and on the basis of this EP, I’d be interested to get to know this band more at some point. But with half an hour and five tracks I couldn’t help feeling they fumbled the ball a little in the execution.
I’ve not heard the band’s 2013 full-length debut or its previously released EP the year before and, to be honest, I would normally be tempted to dip in just to see whether a band’s sound was progressing in any particular direction. But on this occasion, I thought I’d let the music do the talking for itself. Things drop down several gears pretty suddenly after the rush of the first track and we’re pretty rapidly in very proggy and gothic territory – and heading nowhere fast. Even the arrival of Grutle (and I have no idea of the link but its worth pointing out that it’s not often he does this sort of thing, as far as I can see) during the third track fails to prevent this from dragging. If this was an hour long I could handle getting into the slightly meandering gothic, navel-gazing melodrama of the middle tracks. But, let’s be honest, we’re all used to that kind of descent into self-reflection when it comes to this style of music. Yes there are chugging guitars aplenty to create a little heaviness – on third track Acta Est Fabula, for example. And I can imagine those orchestral sweeps and liberal use of clean vocals being a big draw to some fans of this kind of melodic doom-death metal. But, for me, the middle three tracks were a little barren – I could have done with a little more additional encouragement and a few more melodic switches scattered around to help me along.
So, as a showcase, this just fell short for me. By the fourth track we’re in even more progressive territory with the addition of those finely done, if a little too familiar for this kind of music, piano and violin backing and accessible metal-rock vocals. It’s only the plod of the doom guitars of the final track that jolted me out of my directionless reverie and back into the release itself. On one level, this EP sets out a nice menu for the band’s musical sound and I’m certain these guys are worth more than this EP suggests. The production is fantastic and there is plenty of evidence that this whole project has legs. But Rise of Avernus are going to have to hold off on the dressing and add a bit more meat to the filling next time round if they’re going to tempt me in further.
(6.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)