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Norse – Ascetic

by Gary Hernandez at 25 September 2021, 8:26 PM

Despite the regional implications of their name, NORSE is a Black Metal duo out of New South Wales, Australia. The band formed in 2005 and have three EPs, one split, and four full-lengths albums to their credit. Their latest album, “Ascetic,” was released on Transcending Obscurity on September 25, 2021.  It’s eight tracks (42 minutes) of a dissonant Black Metal which explores unexpected corridors and cellars and attics of the craft. And it ain’t grandma’s abandoned knitting projects they’re finding, more like the half-dissolved manifestations of dread, ritual, and disquiet. If Danielewski’sHouse of Leaves” had a soundtrack, this might be it.

Throughout “Ascetic,” NORSE traverses the outer edges of this thing we call extreme metal. While it is disturbing, it isn’t necessarily evil. And it’s only disturbing in the fact that it is largely unanticipated. Amongst crushing riffs, avalanche inducing percussions, and demonic vocals there are also curious jazz flourishes, notes that may have never been played before, and juxtapositions of rhythms and harmonies that are unnaturally natural. This album draws you back over and over again and, like any piece of good literature or art, it yields more of itself with each listening.  This album is by far one of the most intriguing releases in the extreme metal underground scene this year.

Each track on the album seems like an exposition of a theme. Those themes vary in complexity from the straight-forward “Parasitic Warmongers” to the multifaceted “Accelerated Subversion.” While all the tracks have their own merits, my favorite has to be “Radical Depression” which strips out the riffs and explosive drums and leaves you with a thin line of logic that is cutting and subversive. That thin line, of course, swells to an overpowering frenzy only to deconstruct back down to its essence. The drum work by Forge on this track is simply gorgeous. Another standout track is “Useless” which closes the album. Its indictment is unsettling in that you don’t know which direction it is pointing. Is it self-realization, an individual accusation, or a sweeping societal conclusion?

All in all, “Ascetic” is a powerful offering by NORSE. It’s compelling, intriguing, and never dull. Similar to the album cover art that harbors within its imagery fluid suggestions and depictions of things beyond the ink and graphics that comprise it, the music on this album is darkly transcendent.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 6
Production: 7

4 Star Rating

1.  Ascetic
2.  Parasite Warmongers
3.  Fearless Filth Seeker
4.  Accelerated Subversion
5.  Radical Depression
6.  Zero Insight
7.  Blight
8.  Useless
Forge – Drums, guitars
ADR – Vocals
Record Label: Transcending Obscurity Records


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Edited 07 December 2022

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