‘What if Alcest hadn’t abandoned its black metal influences on their latest record?’ lamented the four sad, yet in their minds still apocalyptic, metal heads, “what if Neige had not told devil tritones and dark beauty goodbye forever?” Well, I can imagine that “Notturno” would sound something like that lament. It would fit perfectly in between “Les Voyages de l’Âme” and “Shelter”, which marked the end of a progression from raw black metal to shoegaze that Alcest went through over the past fifteen years. Of course this record transcends the comparison to the French blackgaze-outfit, but it is a nice reference point to start exploring this fascinating album.
RELEASE DATE: 25 September 2015 LABEL: Apocalyptic Witchcraft Recordings
Australasia is the musical project of multi-instrumentalist Gian Spalluto. After leaving Italian deathcore outfit Ingraved, he started writing music as Australasia, merging black metal and post-rock unprecedented fashion. His debut, ‘Sin4tr4’ came out in 2012 and in 2013 came a follow-up called ‘Vertebra’. Both albums have a significantly different feel, but definitely stay within the original motive of the act. So ‘Notturno’ is Australasia’s third album, and it definitely feels like a leap forward for the band sound-wise. The record is better produced and more coherent in its songwriting while retaining the original emotional qualities of the music.
‘Notturno’ is a work of powerful beauty. The album cover is a masterful piece of art, perfectly setting the mood for the record together with the austere one word song titles. This record rids black metal of its crushing inaccessibility and merges it with the melancholy attitude of post-rock. Moments of dissonance are stylishly combined with intensely beautiful passages. The blast beats are gone, but that does not feel like a loss. The drums are a lot more modest than on the previous albums, but they are definitely more effective and elegant.
The production on this album is very well done. I really want to applaud Spalluto for being able to bring the parts and melodies of this album with such wonderful force. The guitars are thick and wooly, but they come in with such clarity and punch, while the synthesisers cut through the haze with ease. Spalluto describes himself as a retro-synthesiser enthusiast, drawing inspiration from the likes of Vangelis, and it is these synthesisers that give the album a wonderfully cohesive sound.
A standout track for me is called ‘Invisible’, which starts out with the sound of nighttime, after which the guitars break loose in typical Australasia fashion, accompanied by a subtle violinesque synthesiser. About two minutes into the song the guitars tone down and suddenly enter the vocals of Mina Carlucci, who sings for Italian dark folk band Vostok. With her own band, Carlucci is a passionate and slightly eccentric singer, but for ‘Notturno’ she curbs her voice to sing elegant, wordless lines that make ‘Invisible’ the stunning climax of the album.
‘Notturno’ is a great addition to the oeuvre of Spalluto. It is clean, powerful and contains a wonderful emotional beauty. Production is well-executed and stylistically it is a very balanced record. From me, nothing but praise for this album.