Ur Draugr- “The Wretched Ascetic”

Ur Draugr- "The Wretched Ascetic"

As part of my efforts to spice things up around here and get more regular posting in, I feel it’s important for both my sanity and the quality of the music featured to increase the diversity of music featured on Black Metal & Brews. It seems that my desire has been understood by the deities of the inbox, because wonderful bands who are outside of the traditional black metal spectrum like Ur Draugr are showing up. While this Australian three-piece cites the progressive black metal mastery of Enslaved as an influence, I think there is also a healthy offering of technical death metal in here. While these days this could mean the obnoxious, sterile attempts at showboating, this is more cut from the mold of classic Atheist than any noodling you might expect. The songs actually feel like songs and the riffs are actually riffs, but they’re all done with a precision and musicianship that is often absent from bands outside of the more progressive and technically minded communities.

If you’re like me and cringe at the mere mention of tech-death, I urge you to wait a moment and give Ur Draugr’s debut EP The Wretched Ascetic at least a single listen. Opening track “Unseen Golgotha” demands attention from the very start, with sudden shifts and lurches that feel inorganic at first listen, but with a focused ear things begin to piece themselves together. Crackling acoustic guitars are actually a tasteful accent rather than a gimmicky start, for one. That they eventually give way to aggression is inevitable in a release like this, so the execution’s crispness is what makes it so engaging. A shift in chord, the sound of fingers sliding across a string, and the pace picks up a bit with distorted guitars joining the acoustics instead of replacing them until the whole thing builds into a blissful chaos. The process takes a couple minutes, but Ur Draugr is in no hurry to sacrifice atmosphere for the sake of the song. This is what separates them from many of their technically gifted peers. Black metal inspired riffs with weight and texture are often balanced with a chopping and churning pacing to keep things fresh and in motion, but there’s still something memorable to cling to. A passage of Opeth-ian ambiance is just as at home here as are the start-stop lurches of hideous death metal that keep the listener on their toes. If the opener is a sampling of Ur Draugr’s ability to shape-shift, the ten minute centerpiece that is the album’s title track is a thorough demonstration. To describe its path and form is nearly impossible, as it grows and moves on once the listener becomes familiar. While this sounds potentially exhausting, it’s rather exhilarating and makes for a fun experience for those who are willing to devote their full attention to the act of listening. The album’s closing piece is a short offering of relief in the form of “Sombre Moribund,” a soothing instrumental denoument to the album’s peak moments of madness and urgency.

This is currently only a digital release, but Ur Draugr has intentions of getting this out on a broader level over time. For now, enjoy it as a free download or throw the band a few bucks to help cover the costs of recording new music. These guys are already making it clear they’re a force to watch. Don’t sleep on them.