There is no greater genre for intentional anonymity than black metal. Sure, the music should speak for itself, but you gotta admit that there’s a glut of faceless kvltery going around, and I’m not talking about corpsepaint, either. Hooded robes, gas masks, ski masks, demon masks, you name it, are being utilitzed ad nauseam with mixed results. Greece’s Awe trumps them by not only eschewing with the whole mask thing, but also the whole bandmember-naming convention, as there isn’t a band photo or even a line-up mentioned anywhere on the Interwebz. I’m beginning to think that black metal musicians just secretly admire the majestic awesomeness of the unicorn, but I digress. Anywho, having been around since 2007 yet only just releasing music this year, with their only other release being a split with End and Vacantfield titled Moerae, based on the Three Sisters of Fate, I now have their debut, Providentia. Three songs at 53 minutes. Buckle up, kiddos, it’s time for a drive into the Underpass of the Nameless!
And “Actus Primus” definitely puts everything into first gear with its long, droning singular riff repeated endlessly over a well-produced bass. Seeing as how it’s exactly twenty minutes long, whether or not that’s a good thing is entirely up to the listener, but for me, things don’t pick up until six minutes into the song when there’s finally something resembling action and urgency. I’m a patient guy, but that’s pushing things. The vocals are cavernous in that whole Imperial Triumphant/Blut Aus Nord growl-rasp, and the rhythm section gets all nice and chaotic. Speaking of Blut Aus Nord, they’re a good point to reference, except the bass is actually present more, and the music isn’t quite as captivating. There’s even an angular Deathspell Omega-esque part after a bit of ambiance 11:28 into the song before slowing down from 16:45 to the end.
Patience is definitely required when diving into Providentia, and this is coming from someone who loves the weirder side of black metal. Out of the three songs, “Actus Secundus” makes the best statement of intent, starting off strong with a whirling riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on Blut Aus Nord‘s The Work Which Transforms God before switching gears about four minutes in, tossing you against the rails before making another sharp left turn. Awe, to my ears, seems more intent on throwing as many curves at you than it does bringing cohesion to those twists and turns, because some of them either go on for too long, or just come out of nowhere and take the listener out of the song.
Sound-wise, this is a very strong effort. The bass is powerful and clean, the guitars are rich and layered yet you can pick out each one effortlessly, and the drums sound natural and thunderous. My qualms are with the songwriting. I’ve spent the better part of the last two weeks, giving Providentia many chances to click, and it just doesn’t. As a fan of the aforementioned bands, it should, but it feels like it’s kept me at a safe distance at all times.
That’s not to say that Awe are a bad band. Far from it, in fact. There’s got to be some sort of entrance into the band’s labyrinthine world, but Providentia wasn’t the portal for me. I will continue to keep an ear out, though.