Review Summary: The biggest issue on Ast is the fact that none of the songwriting is particularly interesting or worthwhile when there are so many bands that do it better.
You know, I can never seem to get enough nature-themed black metal. Somehow the themes go together hand in hand to make a raw, primitive wall of sound that perfectly captures the very essence of the woods of the trees they often sing about - provided it's done well. See Wolves In The Throne Room, late October Falls and early Ulver for the evidence of this combination working together beautifully. I'm always ready to accept another band in the ranks of these tree-hugging (yet talented) musicians, and on the front of it all, Skagos seems perfect - long songs, pretty yet bleak album covers, what is there not to like? Unfortunately, the thing not to like is the music itself in the case of Skagos.
After being greeted by a few arbitrary sounds that don't really set any kind of atmosphere at all, which would be fine if the rest was good, we're thrown right into the first real track. It begins with a pretty uninspired set of power chords with a near ridiculous amount of reverb on them, which is an obvious attempt to make the song sound "atmospheric", which might work if the riff was any good. On top of this you have the same note ringing over and over, with stock standard drums for this genre. Enter some vocals that sound far too processed to my ears (I thought Skagos boasted about only using real instruments, or maybe I'm wrong?). Save for one ambient-ish track that seems to hold no purpose, Skagos just seem to cut and copy that formula for an hour with a few different and consistently boring riffs, and they made Ast
Okay, that's not really fair - there are some moments that shake it up a bit. We occasionally get to hear an acoustic guitar that plays a few notes very slowly and never do anything particularly interesting. This might be nice, but it's so predictable that you know exactly what is going to happen before it actually does. Aside from this, Ast
does very little to surprise you. Sometimes there are a few sections between the generic black metal passages with a few of the instruments cut out as yet another attempt to accentuate the atmosphere, but due to none of the riffs being particularly interesting, the atmosphere is lost on it. It doesn't help that a lot of the playing here seems a bit sloppy, too. Some of the drumming sounds a bit off in places and some of the guitar seems very ameteurish and weak. Because of this, there aren't really any highlights at all. This completely ruins anything this album had going for it because bands like Wolves In The Throne Room and October Falls rely heavily on their riffs being hypnotic, and none of the riffs here have the effect they should - so it just becomes a drawn out, boring attempt at stealing their thunder. Almost all of the above could have easily been forgiven by me if the songwriting was any good, or at least distinctive. There's just no point in talking about the majority of the tracks here because they all suffer from the same thing. Shame, really.
So where does Skagos go wrong? Well, beyond the pretty sloppy playing displayed on Ast
, the biggest issue is the fact that none of the songwriting is particularly interesting or worthwhile when there are so many bands that do it so much better. Yes, it would be unreasonable to ask for every band doing this kind of thing to be at the same high standard as the aforementioned bands, but at least do something relatively interesting if you're going to do an album like this. This would even be enjoyable if it was an obvious clone (which it is), provided it was well written - but Ast
just isn't. Every moment spent listening to this is another moment wishing you were listening to someone who does it better. Perhaps my rating is a bit harsh, but average implies that it is to a certain standard, to the norm - there's nothing really to take from this at all, and absolutely none of it seems worthwhile - so to me, this is a poor effort. Shame really, as there is evidently potential here, the band members just need to find it and find some better ideas. Alas, a band member posted on MySpace saying he's off to live in a distant cave somewhere. Well, if it prevents another bland album like this one, I'm all for it.