Ur Draugr – The Wretched Ascetic (Self Released)

Tuesday, 3rd February 2015
Rating: 8.5/10

It seems that Australia is truly becoming a hotbed for bands that want to break through the confines of traditional metal and put a new spin on things. Bands like Portal, Ulcerate, or even Ne Obliviscaris have taken their own spin on things and generated some solid head-turning towards the tiny continent. The latest to step up to the plate is that of Ur Draugr, with a stunningly rich EP in the form of The Wretched Ascetic.

Most of the time, a 3-song (well 2 plus an acoustic outro), 20-minute EP would be relegated to a smaller review, but The Wretched Ascetic has a certain flair to it that begs some further discussion. Being able to channel and combine different aspects from big name players ranging from Opeth to Behemoth to Agalloch and incorporating them into a workable frame is quite intriguing. From the acoustic intro of “Unseen Golgotha” to its erupting guitars, you know you are going to hear something special. The melodies that lead out “Unseen Golgotha” are almost otherworldly and stunning. The even lengthier title track has moments of almost jazzy progressiveness among the sometimes poignant melodies, crushing chuggy groove, explosive black/death riffs (complete with some killer varied roars), and elegant acoustic moments. Everything is coherent, with flawless transitions, while keeping a little bit of mystery about what is to come around the corner. Ur Draugr are on to something special with what they’ve accomplished here.

Ultimately, the tragedy lies in that in late 2014, Ur Draugr were prepping to release their first full-length effort. Due to a bit of hardware failure, the band lost almost all of their work. The Wretched Ascetic is what could be recovered from said incident. While the band is cooking up some new material, there is a sense of longing for what could have been here, as The Wretched Ascetic’s only flaw is that of its length. But it works for developing some solid hype for the band, who could easily make quite a splash if a full-length is able to hold up to this caliber of songwriting. The Wretched Ascetic is available as a “name your price” download at Bandcamp, so feel free to toss the band a few bucks towards their upcoming effort.

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