This is different. The Auternus EP comes packaged (in promo form at least) in some eye-catching packaging which immediately helps it to stand out from the crowd. The same can be said of the music within, but it’s not quite as you might expect from the band’s presentation.
First track ‘fall’ is a moody scene setter – an instrumental that meanders gently through its one and a half minute run time before ‘slow motion’ kicks in and this is where the band confound your expectations. Eschewing metal, Auternus actually recall early nineties alternative music such as Soundgarden, Screaming Trees, Smashing pumpkins and their ilk at their most experimental, but filtered through the post-metal/rock musings of Isis and Tool. With clean vocals rather than the screaming that has become the norm, the band rely heavily on twisted melody and powerful instrumentation to drag the listener in and it is an effective trick. ‘Winter’ is another short segue track before the monumental (and almost ten minute long) ‘Chase the sparrow’ grabs our attention and holds it in a death-grip for its duration. Slowly building out of a mire of ominous bass, the track is almost Pink Floyd-like in its unnerving patience, with tension slowly building out of the groundswell of noise and static. As guitars come chiming in, the sense of anticipation grows and you realise that three minutes has passed without a hint of vocals. It’s a lengthy build up that Tool would be proud of and, yes the promo sheet was right, there are elements of A perfect circle there too. The pay off for your perseverance is a chugging masterwork, all heavy metal guts and thundering bass with intricate guitar sliding across the top effortlessly. As a centrepiece to the EP it is faultless and worth the price of the disc alone.
Another segue track, ‘spring’ nicely drifts from the speakers before the final track proper (there is one final ambient track to close proceedings) ‘sombre victory’ makes itself known. Every bit as introspective as the title suggests, it actually recalls modern Katatonia crossed with Red Sparrowes with its downbeat melodic lines. The final track sees the EP out on a shimmering high.
So any complaints? Well maybe a couple. Auternus are a fantastic and capable band who will undoubtedly go on to great things within the art-rock world but there are elements where they struggle to escape the confines of the genre and, when the benchmarks are already set so high, they don’t quite excel in the way that you feel that they could. This isn’t exactly a criticism – Isis, Neurosis and Red Sparrowes cast a scarily large shadow and Auternus more than hold their own, but they need to develop their own sound to a greater extent on future efforts. One other (and this is minor) detail is that the production is a touch wooden sounding and the band could benefit from greater clarity on further outings. That said, and this is more important, is that this is still a phenomenal EP. While it doesn’t quite hit the giddy heights of Red Sparrowes, it is still inventive, interesting and powerful and thoroughly recommended. ‘Changing seasons’ is the ideal record to get lost in after a hard day; an ambient, metal wonder that reveals a huge talent lurking at the heart of this promising band.