July 12th, 2011
Release length: 57:41
It’s clear the band embraces the lo-fi production value of many underground acts like them, but in this case that quality is not as raw, though it still perfectly sets the tone of the release. The audio feels somewhat clear and fluid, though pushed back into the mix to give it more of an environment suited to the wintery landscape portrayed on the artwork and many Norse, snowcapped, frostbitten albums that have come before it. The guitars ring through with a haunting distortion that feels a little cleaner, giving the audio it’s liquid-like sound, playing haunting melodies against often blistering guitar work that hammers away with blastbeats or a performance close to it, unless to match the slower tempos that do come near. The kit shares the same background quality as well, having the cymbols stand out a little more, largely when played in a blasting pattern, with snares the come through destinctively and naturally, though the bass kicks are present and hard to pick up on, being more of a deeper thud to accentuate the bass performance that often shines through against the additional guitar work that makes the material richer while the leads try to set up a cold and hopeless atmosphere for the release. Again, the vocals appear pushed back as well, and this allows the more traditional Black Metal rhasps to come through like wind blowing in the cold terrain as ghastly voices can be discerned from within them, all establishing the grim and haunting audio landscapes of Yearning.
But is establishing an environment such as this all that is needed to really make this album of material that has been done a lot already in a direction worth taking notice of? Honest, it helps quite a bit. While the foundation and atmospheres are far from an original stretch for the underground style, Aurvandil seem to do a good job at it. Lyrically, this release also seems to be set up in a conceptual manner, with each track being represented as a chapter with an introduction, and outro, and an interlude. “I – Yearning – Prelude” sets up a slightly melancholic vive against a dark night with visions of the only light source being a slow burning fire. The acoustic performance here fades in slowly and then out once the mood is established, which this track does a good job of doing for the near two and a half minutes. Once completed, “II – End of an Age” hammers right in with strong, heavy traditional Black Metal riffs and louder double bass kicks that shine through with the slightly Folkish sound and atmosphere being given off amid that grim visage of earlier that still lurks. The slow paced track does have it’s faster paced fits, but through the entire track you cannot help but feel swept up in the icey grip of the music and tight performance.
But, while the tone of the release may come off hopeless and melancholic, you can always find plenty of reasons to headbang along to the songs. One of the more impressive songs on here ends up being “IV – A Guide to Northern Scapes,” which features plenty of catchy, cold Black Metal material of both a haunting and sinister nature that it comes through both a bit epic, and a song that will cause you to find your head going along to the it’s rhythm and solid performances until the very end when it fades to it’s conclusion. Of course “II – End of an Age” will also find you headbanging along to the music, as will many others on here. Of course the acoustic “I – Yearning – Prelude,” “V – Walking – Interlude,” and “IX – Reaching – Finale” will not cause you to find the involuntary neck spasms of infectious response happening, but instead they continue to build up the grim tone of the release with their acoustic performances that don’t feel as though they hinder the progress of the heavier material, but rather act as enhancements to the overall product. The only one that doesn’t really feel like it needs to be there is “V – Walking – Interlude,” solely because the song prior to it, and after, are both solid and don’t really require any atmospheric build up to occur, causing a bit of a wasted opportunity to cast the album in enough of a direction that it remains fresh without deviating from the initial sound lined out in “II – End of an Age.”
It also hurts a bit when “VI – I Summon Scorn” actually does kick in. The over nine minute song, yet not the longest on the album, makes for another somewhat epic sounding track that is largely an instrumental piece with random wails going on to compose the first half, then picking up in a more traditional Black Metal sense past that point. Having a strong lead or build up to this track would have been a superb touch to have, especially since this track really does change things up. By the time you reach the conclusion of “VI – I Summon Scorn,” you are greeted with more acoustic guitars. While this isn’t bad, it does start to grow a little tiresome when “VII – Reign of Ice II” kicks in. Neither of these acoustic pieces that are taked on really do anything for the atmosphere of the album, and in the end actually kind of nullify the need for chapters in the release, as well as an intro, outro and interlude since these seems to also act as ways to pause time within the concept of the release, and even introduce or close out the chapter in a manner that was established to be a specifically placed track to establish atmosphere before, during, and after the “intermission” song. This causes these moments to end up more like padding for the album to push towards a sixty minute length, which is just misses by a little more then two minutes.
Yearning is actually a fantastic album despite the aforementioned moments of padding. There’s a great deal of emotion incorporated into the music, all the while setting a melancholic and cold atmosphere that is simply astounding and even can tread into rather epic territories. After all the years of waiting for the band’s official full-length debut, Aurvandil simply did not fail the listeners and delivered an album that truly does stand out amongst the underground atmospheric Black Metal releases it has to contend with, making this an album you that, if you call yourself a Black Metal, you have to hear it.
01. I – Yearning – Prelude – 2:27
02. II – End of an Age – 5:23
03. III – Reign of Ice I – 6:16
04. IV – A Guide to Northern Scapes – 7:18
05. V – Walking – Interlude – 4:36
06. VI – I Summon Scorn – 9:05
07. VII – Reign of Ice II – 9:28
08. VIII – Gylfi’s Journey – 9:06
09. IX – Reaching – Finale – 2:27
|Overall Score: 9/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Eisenwald Tonschmiede via Earsplit PR.