Review: Awe – Providentia

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There’s an old adage about the quiet ones being those you least suspect. Awe‘s Providentia slipped into the fold late last year and managed to go largely unnoticed. This album stood and peered through the window as you sifted through your 2015 releases to make your all important year-end lists. Discreetly watching. Still. Poised, ready to strike with calculated tact. Providentia is the killer that waits for you to make first contact before taking your life.

From the first time I heard the alluring clean intro back in November last year, this album courted me, subtly coaxing me to step within its grasp. The slow, almost unassuming building of cryptic layers spans nearly the first 6 minutes. As you are drawn closer, suspicion grows that what lies behind the veil is not what it seems. Before you can escape, it’s too late. You’re in the killer’s dwelling. Pushed down the stairs into the dark underworld, in all likelihood not to see the light again.

Just as the captor seemed so meek at first, on the surface Providentia appears to be a minor affair of just 3 tracks. Even their titles are simple: “Actus Primus”, “Actus Secondus”, and “Actus Purus”. However, with a run-time of over 50 minutes of suffocating and chaotic black metal, Awe have produced anything but an insignificant frivolous romp.

Even though I did just mention this album had a somewhat suffocating atmosphere, it doesn’t come at the cost of progression or intrigue. There are moments of deviation, dissonance and innovation interspersed throughout these tracks. The guitars are cerebral and cover much of the ground that many more well-known acts do, but only when they are combined. Awe manage this alone. The bass-lines often wander off and take the composition to realms that truly place it above a mere black metal album. While they might originally seem like they’ve diverged down the path of madness, after repeated listens they begin to seem lucid and will possibly leave you questioning your own sanity.

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                                                             Gatefold image by Viral Graphics – description in Appendix

The relationship between the riffs and percussion alternates between tight cooperation and off-kilter interplay. One of the most noteworthy examples of the latter can be found at 8:35 in “Actus Secondus”, where the murderer returns to the basement and viciously assaults the victim with a variety of syncopated rhythmic attacks. The lyric matter appears to deal with the nature of not only life itself, but the entire universe from a philosophical stand-point. I’m only just beginning to scratch the surface in terms of lyrics, as I tend to immerse myself in the composition and try and absorb the music first with most albums, and believe me, there’s a lot to take in.

The closest comparison to this album I can make is something like Deathspell Omega’s Paracletus, although I feel that this album is less introspective and generally more frenetic, which suits me fine. The clean passage half-way (around 6:00) through the final track gives a moment of respite from the maelstrom, although its subtle advances are adorned in a unique sense of menace.

After being trapped in the vicinity of this killer album for over 3 months now, I have almost certainly developed a case of Stockholm syndrome. I’ve grown to enjoy the dark, crave its enigmatic presence and the routine of its beatings. I feel at home.

Providentia is killer.

4.5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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Appendix: The depiction of the man rolling the stone uphill includes this excerpt from Hungarian philosopher Albert Camus based on the Greek myth of Sisyphus –

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

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