For all the albums I get that choke my inbox to death, I’d say a good 60 percent of it likely is black metal. There is so damn much of it and so many bands doing it and so many records released all the time that it’s really tough to sift through it all, much less find what is actually worth devoting my time. I guess it’s a good problem to have, but standing out among that crowded pack isn’t very easy.
Bizarre Australian duo Norse never had much use for convention, and in their 16 years together, they’ve shape shifted more than once and have found ways to keep things interesting. That case is made again on “Ascetic,” their fourth overall and first since 2017, and their aim here appears to be to take black metal’s DNA and fuck it all up with different sounds and approaches. Over eight bizarre, penetrating tracks, the band—vocalist/lyricist ADR, multi-instrumentalist Forge—creates music that makes it feel like your temperature is spiking and your dreams are turning against you, showing you things you never expected existed and making you come to terms with their presence. It’s chilling, heavy, and inventive, an album that expands black metal’s reaches to the unimaginable.
“Ascetic” rumbles in and pummels as the growls smash, as a brief calm settles in before it explodes on the other end. Dizzying heat and spurts of coldness form a front, the jerky bass spatters, and the muddy gashing brings the song to a tumultuous end. “Parasite Warmongers” bubbles to the surface and chugs as the growls mar, and the humidity coats your face with added sweat. The guitars slice open veins, and a strange storm spreads, sending stymying electric pulses that disorient, mixing into the murk. “Fearless Filth Seeker” delivers staticky guitars and whispery growls, tangling with the elements. The aura swims as the growls gut, melodies mix into your bloodstream, and it feels like your brain is melting as you slip into a mist. The playing smudges, whispers haunt again, and everything is absorbed by the ground. “Accelerated Subversion” crushes right away as the bass sludges, and the playing loosens bolts. Dissonance mixes in as the shrieks kill, the heat rises, and the forces on the low end get uglier, ending in choral calls and chaos.
“Radical Depression” is eerie when it dawns, the drums tap away, and a moodiness thickens and makes it presence greater. An unsettling tone breaks through, crumbling the ground and challenging your balance, and then punches are thrown. Weird playing lands, the drums pace, and the frenetic final moments leave you jarred. “Zero Insight” brings dizzying guitars and vocals that leave abrasions, with the drumming sounding like a machine gun. The tempo comes unglued before cold water mixes with your blood, and things come apart, bringing hillsides down into valleys as the playing charges off into the cosmos. “Blight” is a quick one, but it brings the knives as strange ambiance turns into a drumming drill, the shrieks swelter, and the energy blasts into closer “Useless” that actually begins with guitars adding a chill. Then it obliterates your senses as animalistic howls crash through bone, the playing lurches, and the snarling heat blows you backward. Hypnotic lines soar, the growls eat into your mind, and the track ends with combine blades swallowing you into their clutches.
This bizarre Australian duo Norse has a very unconventional way to present black metal, and they do it in a way that keeps the subgenre’s creative gears moving into new territory. “Ascetic” is a collection that keeps you guessing and also demands and gains your attention, because how can you possibly look away? Records like this that plays in familiar territory but push the rules to the side are the ones that make this style keep growing and maintain its interest level.
For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/norse.official
To buy the album (North America), go here: https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.com/
Or here (Europe): https://transcendingobscurity.aisamerch.de/shop-en_
For more on the label, go here: https://tometal.com/