If you haven’t heard of the legendary Austere, you probably haven’t been paying attention to the wonderful and often bizarre world of depressive black metal and its relatives. Musicians Mitchell Keepin, or “Desolate,” and Tim Yatras, or “Sorrow,” the artists behind Austere, first joined forces in 2005. This Australian duo released two albums — Withering Illusions and Desolation (2007) and To Lay like Old Ashes (2009) — as well as two splits before disbanding in 2010. Yet, during Austere’s long period of hibernation, their reputation continued to grow like a disease. In 2021, Desolate and Sorrow reunited. Finally, Austere’s third full-length album, Corrosion of Hearts is upon us. To fans of Austere, this moment, which was first announced in late January, seems too good to be true. In fact, it has probably been one of the biggest BM surprises of 2023 so far.
Corrosion of Hearts contains four compositions, three of which are well over ten minutes. The first track, “Sullen,” hooks you almost immediately with its fearsome majesty. This album, which reaches toward the epic, drenches you in melancholy and slowly drowns you in the swamp of hopelessness and utter exhaustion. Suffocatingly bleak, the atmosphere-packed Corrosion of Hearts paints eerie visions in grays streaked with hallucinatory ribbons of color. The music surrounds you with vast, swirling landscapes and induces a bit of vertigo. Corrosion of Hearts successfully transports you like a needle in the arm to a realm beyond sanity. It’s easy to get stuck in the addictive melodies, which build up over you like a cloud and haunt you throughout your day.
Despite the obvious inspiration taken from Nordic black metal, Corrosion of Hearts has a certain je ne sais quoi that sets it apart. We hear various influences, including blackgaze. The post-BM Corrosion of Hearts is neither traditional nor what you would call experimental. It delivers something that comes across as both modern and nostalgic. This keyboard-sprinkled offering makes for a very easy listen with certain aspects that are lustrous and polished. Beauty and the abject are well-balanced overall. Yet, the album could still use more backbone. On a related note, the mix and production feel a bit off. Meanwhile, we hear a variety of different vocal approaches — clean vocals, scratchy harsh vocals, wails, etc. The contrast works nicely, though changes can feel a bit inorganic. The vocal performances are not always as effective and powerful as they could be, but most listeners will be highly impressed. In the end, they claw their way under your skin.
Those who love Austere tend to really love the band. Corrosion of Hearts is bound to speak strongly to many metal aficionados and feel quite meaningful. However, others might believe that it could be more emotionally engaging. Corrosion of Hearts isn’t as extreme as one might expect and could even be perceived as a little safe within the context of the genre. Unfortunately for fans of more outrageous bands, it will not make you want to jump to any permanent decisions in a literal sense. Nevertheless, this sad little fact obviously makes it more bearable and accessible. Thus, if you are new to the more depressive side of black metal, Corrosion of Hearts should prove an especially enjoyable offering. In the end, the amount of misery that Corrosion of Hearts invites you to share is more than generous.
In short, the otherworldly Corrosion of Hearts is a thoroughly solid record — a great addition to your metal playlist. This is definitely an album that you should check out. It might even become one of your new favorites.