Review Summary: Veins of ice.
As we usher in a new year it’s hard to imagine just how anything will even hold a candle to the year that was 2021
. Regardless of our pre…or misconceptions of what albums would hold sway on popular opinion there are always a few early releases that will make us question if, just if
, the next will be better than the last. Notwithstanding where exactly that is
, The Blood You Crave
, from Australian black metal collective OAR is a morsel well worth the ordering.
Forgive me. I’m still shaking off the festive break.
But if you’ll let this terrible analogy continue, it’s hard not to break down The Blood You Crave
’s track into bite sized courses; one to be consumed after the next until we’re all done. Once you’re through the entrees, this degustation tour de force is smooth sailing. Fairly, some new listeners may baulk at the introductory, eleven minute title track. Most entrees aren’t served at such a long withstanding scale and yet, “The Blood You Crave” is filled with nuance, subtle notes that dance in and out of the palette. As abrasive as the walls of screams that announce the track’s beginnings, there’s a range of sounds here that sit apart the caustic confines of black metal. Often, OAR’s broader sounds leave imprints on the core of black metal, not unlike the doomscapes a listener would find on an Ataraxie record. The title track flows through each of the album’s moods, setting an example for what is to come. The tendency to lean into post metal helps soften The Blood You Crave
as a whole, but from here the set menu is more bite-sized, lighter amuse bouche set between a bold beginning and a memorable finish.
“Doomed and Damned” begins in sombre melancholy before a snarl steamrolls the mix and that’s just part of the crux of the album’s shortcomings. Most of the album has a focus on the screams and the melodies that sit in the higher range. Because of this, the instruments that live in the lower register simply fall out of contention until the music becomes minimalistic and doom-y. This caustic approach, the one that focuses on melody and baser black metal abrasion could be likened to a sword; all edge and no body. Putting aside this mild noise complaint, there’s a lot to take away from the track mentioned above and its counterpart, “Perfect Agony” whose uplifting melodies contrast well with the visceral track before it and
the pointed snarls within at odds with the title of the track itself. While we’ve already established the more imperfect features found within, it’s the positives (both here and on the rest of the record) that are worth the deeper analysis. The latter of which breathes; slower tempos giving space for the less prominent bass work to shine before both the guitar and drum work rip in without restraint.
Still the set courses continue, and this forty-four minute table d'hôte has many meaty morsels and sweet treats to come, but this is where things start to get icy. “Souls Lost in the Frost” bleeds black metal motifs, post whatever-isms. The second of the album’s eleven minute tracks, “What Once Used to Bloom” takes the listener on a journey through a funeral dirge, a la the Ataraxie name-drop earlier. Slow melancholic melodies and crushing riffs circulate in a driving manner while the cleaner guitar tone provides further breathing space for the listener. While those adjectives lie rather opposite each other, OAR’s ability to meld gentle swells and ensnaring demonic visceral compositions together really bring out the best in the album’s icier atmospheres. Something that is summarized in this eleven minute landscape of post-black metal sounds.
Even as The Blood You Crave
closes in gentler acoustic climes, a petit-four in comparison to the courses set before it; it’s clear that this Sydney-based collective is onto something
. The music is majestic, beautiful in its harshness and compliant within its more gentle frames, but I can’t help but feel this would be magnificent if the production values were held to the same impressive standards. All in all it’s not a bad way to start the year—and there’s some invisible brownie points for sprooking up the local scene. Mostly OAR’s debut full-length is filled to the brim with promise. I’ll be back to try next season, ready to degust.