Solid and staggering…
Released on 19 May 2017 through French Avant-garde Black Metal label Les Acteurs De L’Ombre Productions and reviewed by Jason Guest
Picking up where their 5-track 2015 eponymous EP left off (listen here), the second release from Lithuania’s Au-Dessus, End of Chapter, is a beautifully dark and heavy affair. Combining the progressive with the melodic and the atmospheric amidst the unremittingly heavy, harsh and bleak, it’s a harrowing and ferocious piece of work. Immediately apparent in the deftly-woven ominous and intense compositions is the band’s distinct confidence in their musical, instrumental and compositional abilities. Musically, the quartet has an ear for the dark and the sinister as well as the melancholic and the melodious, a balance that they maintain throughout the seven colossal tracks that make up the album, the result being a solid and staggering experience.
Opener, ‘VI’ evolves into a web of ever-mounting tensions, the track taking its time to unveil the blackened bile at the album’s core before allowing itself to take shape through its many nuanced passages. ‘VII’ goes for the throat in a blaze of black metal savagery while maintaining the atmospheric density of its predecessor and throwing in huge slabs of chaotic ferocity that are as unsettling as they are powerful, a trait that persists through ‘VII’ with its tremolo blasts, atmospheric half-tempo guitar lines and ominous vocal chants offset against the dark and the downtempo mid-section.
The two longest tracks – ‘IX’ at 7:27 and ‘X’ at 9:39 – are where the band truly come into their own, the destructive damage and the emotional weight of these tracks is near-tangible. The long, complex structures and the meticulous arrangement of both of those tracks is astounding, so much so that were it not so beautifully crafted, penultimate track ‘XI’ could easily have been overshadowed. So it goes for closing track ‘X: End of Chapter’ too (listen to them both here).
Tortured and testing, while the first three tracks are good – very good, that is – it’s the last four that are great, outstanding, even. And it’s these tracks that make End of Chapter so very much more than your generic (post) black metal offering. It’s the band’s mastery of pace that is sustained throughout the album that allows the band to shine not just as adept musicians but skilled craftsmen that know how to plot a line through the mire and the mysterious and utilise the breadth of their instrumental capabilities to embody and engulf the darkness. Claustrophobic and barren in its black expanse, the album is at once suffocating, sinister and haunting. A magnificent achievement from a band formed only three years ago, whatever chapter it is that this represents the end of, the next one will no doubt be something extraordinary.
8 out of 10
- XI: End of Chapter