Swedish black metal duo Avsky manifest an implacable nihilism with nothing but guitars, bass, and drums. Their music has the primitivist riffing, thin and muffled drums, and hellishly croaked Muppet vocals the genre's been offering since the earliest days of Mayhem and Darkthrone, but with a full, albeit heavily distorted sound that gives it real impact. It helps that their songs are quite long -- on this disc, they range between seven minutes and a few seconds shy of ten, with the sole exception being the three-minute instrumental mood piece "The Beyond." The album's opening track, "As the Mountains Collapse," is also its longest, as if to set listeners up for a long haul. Fortunately, it's not just one riff milked ad nauseum; there are tempo changes and dynamic shifts along the way, tactics that are repeated throughout the album. There are even moments of genuine beauty amid the distortion, feedback, and Cookie Monster howls. The reverbed guitars and delicately tapped cymbals of "The Beyond" are almost soundtrack-worthy, creating a sense of drama that none of the album's other five tracks really even hint at. As soon as it's over, the death march continues, with the seven-minute title track bludgeoning the listener with distorted death metal-style riffing as a second guitar cuts loose long notes like trails of flame in the night sky. Those who find black metal too aesthetically limited would do well to check out Avsky, who never truly break new ground but achieve greatness nonetheless.
by Phil Freeman