Recently, Slovenia has made a fairly solid reputation for itself in the global metal realm, from playing host to Metalcamp festival in Tolmin to releasing some great bands of their own (such as Negligence, Bleeding Fist and Prospect). Now Ater Era, a one-man-project-turned-trio, are stepping up to the plate, evoking many of the better aspects of the old Norwegian black metal scene. In Autumn’s Solitary Decline is the band’s début, completely recorded by S.S. (who has since filled out the line-up with A.S. on drums and I.J. on bass), and the listener undergoes an intriguing conversion process each time the album is spun.
The process starts with opener “Vest”, a textbook example of the Norwegian sound with evil-sounding tremolos and blastbeats all over the place. It’s solid and well-executed, but ultimately nothing earth-shattering; we’ve heard this before with earlier Mayhem and Immortal. The vocals are fairly safe and comprehensible for black metal rasps, and the lyrics are typical of the genre: “Now these bars surround me/Behind them I die/Nor sad, nor proud/I slowly disappear”. During the following number, “Dies Hiemnis”, the bass has its moments of spotlight, however nothing truly sticks out in memory (choral cleans aside), at least until the halfway point arrives.
“Exanimus” looks set to deliver more of the same, but halfway through some energetic melodic lines emerge, along with a solo. Instantly, the listener’s ears prick up. The band then kick into a higher gear with an explosive section near the end, and the music becomes more memorable. “Vortex” does similar tempo changes, while adding an engaging if buried solo amidst the maelstrom. “Quod Mox Servi Erimus” (But Soon We Shall Be Slaves) is a bit of a letdown after this, harking back to the earlier safer material, but the blasting is well-executed nonetheless.
Finally, Ater Era unleash their most potent track: “Red Thorah”. Here, they explore a slower and brooding start to great effect, with strong songwriting that utilizes the prominent bass as they swing from blasting to melody. The lyrics are also a step up, exploring the effect of a Communist regime on Slovenia: “Communism: dead, but still unburied, awaits its elegy red/Walk with me through the red star, to free life from jail”, proclaims S.S. as the song dissolves into chaotic blackness before its final, almost-psychedelic end.
Ultimately, In Autumn’s Solitary Decline resembles an apprentice. At first, he shadows his masters closely, developing and learning. By the end of the album, he has come out with his own worthy pieces that merit their own place in the black metal chronicles. Ater Era’s beginnings may be rooted in Scandinavia, but there is little stopping them from embracing Slovenian culture (as the final track proves). If newcomers want to try Norwegian-styled black metal but don’t fancy wading through multiple albums of Immortal, Mayhem and Darkthrone, this release is a concise starting point. That said, connoisseurs will also find enjoyable morsels within the 40-minute runtime. I look forward to watching the band break the mold when round two arrives.
2. Dies Hiemis
5. Quod Mox Servi Erimus
6. Red Thorah
Ater Era are:
S.S. – All instruments, vocals
A.S. – Drums*
I.J. – Bass*
*Added after this album