While Au-Dessus is categorized as a post-black metal act, there is a little more going on with their debut EP than just that. Aside being set up as five chapters to allow room for a conceptual appeal, there’s also some progressive and folk metal influences thrown into the mix. Of course, you wouldn’t really know much of that upon hearing “I” for the first time. This just over two-minute introductory piece feels far more raw and primitive than the rest of the album, capturing the essence of early Darkthrone with an industrialized aggression sans technology, and a subtle hint of melody before crashing to a slow march with Immortal undertones. While ferocious, it kind of stands as the ugly duckling given there is some fury felt in other tracks, but nowhere near as intense as this welcoming piece.
What follows is often far from as hostile, such as the immediate “II” which has some leads that carry a darker Egyptian tone before that regional aspect give way to calculated, yet restrained blast beats and a catchy groove in the main verses. The ritualistic sensation and the slower hypnotic leads in the bridges keep the listener on their toes as it jumps from one tempo to the next. Sadly, the simpler riffs that demand obedience about four minutes in kind of kill the momentum, especially with the distracting buzz that sounds like a blown speaker that can easily be picked up on due to how empty this segment sounds before heading into quite the depressing Vintersorg or even Tyr laden folk/viking metal hooks and vocal harmonies.
That sorrow-filled environment can also be felt during “IV”. Unfortunately it seems to take a backseat five minutes in when the drums get a bit experimental above those beautiful hooks by going terribly off-beat with what sounds like a clashing march to war. That battle tone works with the start of “V”, but that’s about it given the timing changes and sudden jerks in intricacy that final track throws at the listener.
“III”, however, stands out as more of your traditional post-black metal pieces, and easily the best this outing has to offer. The highly melodic riffs establish a very emotional setting comparable to the darker tones of Character era Dark Tranquillity above the fast-paced drumming. This aspect either becomes expanded upon with a richer presence, slower and reflective that becomes depressive in its own right, or far more complex such as about half-way through.
While Au-Dessus isn’t exactly the most impressive debut within the black metal genre, it definitely shows great potential for the band. The main issue here lies in some inconsistencies held through their progressive traits which are handled as separate parts of the said five chapters (which you wouldn’t know unless you saw the Bandcamp page since the back of the physical version does not dissect them in this manner, or even list the song names anywhere). While not a bad thing, the group’s ability to pull rich and emotional melodies to the forefront definitely stands as their strongest point, and abandoning it for far less enjoyable complexities and sudden changes in direction come off as criminal sometimes. This doesn’t mean Au-Dessus is bad at all though. If you haven’t had the chance to check out this Lithuanian band’s debut.