Australasia: Vertebra

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Australasia: Vertebra
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Australasia: Vertebra
Ambient, Post-Black Metal, Post-Rock, Shoegaze
Immortal Frost Productions
September 30th, 2013
Release length: 35:04
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Australasia is an eccentric little Post-Rock band out of Italy. In 2012, they issued their debut EP Sin4tr4 through Golden Morning Sounds, which was met with plenty of praise by purists of the style. A year later and they find themselves releasing their first ever full-length album Vertebra through Belgium’s Immortal Frost Productions. With the success of Sin4tr4 paving the way and setting up high expectations from their wide fanbase, does this album continue to push the band, or is it more of a traditional offering within the style?

“Aorta” kicks off Vertebra with a hint of Shoegaze in the clean lead riffs. Eventually the distortion does throw some dirt into the mix, but these passages are often short, going back to the colder slower pace similar to the intro that relies on the drumming that finds some parts of the kit echoed and a bit distant. Some female harmonizations appear towards the end for a brief amount of time, giving way to the gothic sounding “Vostok.” The introduction establishes the band’s Electronica tendencies, though the main verses are reminiscent of “Nymphetamine” by Cradle of Filth. Then there’s the extensive final track “Cinema.” It’s a bit on the thin side, but takes on more of an astral atmosphere vibe courtesy of some Space Rock style keyboards used in the background against crystal-like simple lead notes and a soft drum performance that weaves a depressing environment.

“Aura” is more of an experimental approach that relies heavily on Electronica, as well as scat vocals (a form of Jazz and emotional self-expression) from the female singer. There’s no real lyrics here, just random sounds and harmonizations that fill the performance, even when the music becomes highly non-existent, layering the non-sensensical lyrics to make it a richer experience. It’s surprisingly out of place, and even gets a little awkward by the end, but still ends up a strong offering, and one of the more unique originals, especially when compared to the two songs ripped right off of Sin4tr4. “Antenna” and “Apnea” aren’t anything new for established fans, nor do they even sound like they were at all altered for this album. Hopefully their presence is an attempt to expose any additional listeners reached through the new label, exposing them to these two cuts, and not just to pad the release out.

Unfortunately, given what follows after “Aura,” the latter does seem the most logical since things start to go downhill rather quick with shorter songs that sometimes don’t leave much of an impact, if any at all. “Volume” is a decent song, just incredibly short and forgettable. After the introduction, it’s under two minutes of Shoegaze intertwined with basic faster Progressive Metal that just kicks right in, leaving you wondering how it fits in the grand scheme of the album. “Vertebra” treads dangerously close to the same unimpressive outcome, but the clean leads help to establish a colder, depressing atmosphere that carries more of an emotional pull than “Volume” did, helping it to stand out a little more. And then there’s “Deficit,” which only really sticks out due to the blast beat Grindcore speed for more than half of the song.

While Sin4tr4 was a truly impressive debut outing from Australasia that felt like a musical journey more than just an experience, Vertebra simply doesn’t deliver anywhere near the same quality or impact. There’s dome solid tracks here that you can easily come back to from time to time, but it’s the lack of fluidity between the songs, feeling more like a compilation of random artists than a genuine collective that really hurts it, not to mention including two songs from last year’s EP, and a slew of short performances that feel rushed, robbed of the chance to grow and grab hold of the listener with a little more musical exploration. Vertebra is like night and day when compared to Sin4tr4, and hopefully this little stumble is only temporary, and not a sign of the band’s future musical direction.

01. Aorta – 4:10
02. Vostok – 3:47
03. Zero – 4:02
04. Aura – 3:51
05. Antenna – 2:56
06. Volume – 2:04
07. Vertebra – 2:10
08. Apnea – 2:38
09. Deficit – 1:49
10. Cinema – 7:36
Initial Pressing Score: 5.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by Australasia.