Seems there’s no shortage of “post-” in our metal these days, and whether anything new bearing that tag is to be denied credence as it coasts down the descending limb of the sub-genre’s arc of ingenuity is becoming less uncertain with every Neur-Isis disciple that breaks the plane. That isn’t to say that Year of No Light are clones (far from it) but that they make their latest entry into the field at a decided disadvantage amid the glut of bands pinching the aesthetic. Shame, too, because although Ausserwelt’s plusses will be reserved for only the most dedicated listeners and devoted fans of the style, the story may have been different given a little more elbow room within their circle.
Even if Year of No Light doesn’t deal in metal exactly, they ride the fuzzy line at its periphery, casting more than crafting great swaths of post-y ambience and draping it all over a familiar mass of sludge. The focus is on vast, dark atmosphere and dynamics, drifting with all the speed and purpose of celestial bodies seen from afar, locked to interminable elliptical bounds. Though massive at its core, Ausserwelt is bright and gossamer in its outer strata, where guitar melody pulsates slowly and electronic effects radiate erratically through countless layers of distortion. Effective atmospheric music paints a picture for the listener and what I get from these contrasts, especially “Perséphone I” and “II”, is something like the dance of phosphenes, the light that plays against the black of your inner eyelids when your eyes are closed. It makes for an odd sense of disassociation as it’s difficult to discern which of these phenomena is driving the other as the music churns.
Always far away and sometimes absent at great length, the drums remain the center-piece of Ausserwelt, especially when they rise to the fore to induce cosmic tribal trance, as in the opening minutes of “Persphone II.” There are no vocals here, so it’s left to the drums to direct the flow and they do so within a sort of controlled chaos, never really running through a well-defined channel but pushing to, pulling from all points. It is pretty remarkable, the strength of the record’s percussive backbone, considering how loosely it all comes off.
If you were to drop into Ausserwelt at any point along its runtime, I have no doubt you would discover just the pleasant sensations described above. The problem is that it’s all similar enough that, beyond any two of the four songs in one sitting, it really starts to bleed together. In the end, the record behaves a lot like those phosphenes that flit away when you try to really look at them; trying to focus on any specific element of Ausserwelt turns out to reveal far less than taking in the broad, peripheral view. Those already invested in heavy ambience will find Year of No Light’s second LP to be a worthy, if unexceptional, addition to their collections, while those less familiar with or dedicated to the style are likely to find themselves vacillating between apathy and ennui after the halfway mark.