I stumbled across Airs whilst having a bit of a trawl through bandcamp a month or so ago. Not really sure what I was looking for, I casually searched for “black metal” in the tags and this little gem popped up. I’m sure you’re looking at this cover and wondering how on earth it could be said to be black metal, “….but, the cover is all blue, and nice !” you cry. It certainly doesn’t strike you as a BM record on first glance, but delve into the sounds and you’ll soon be convinced.
Airs straddle that ever popular genre known as post-black metal; full of shoegazing, wistful long haired Frenchmen, and the occasional American counterpart. Somehow they manage to produce their music whilst the two members live at opposite ends of the country. A logistical nightmare I’m sure.
1. Overcast -das ende der zeit-
2. Rainclouds Over The Remains Of Hope
3. Cast Into The Sea
5. Everyone Has Died Post-Haste
7. Never Without
8. We’re Still Drifting
10. Clear Skies -und zeit beginnt von neuem-
The first track is a beautifully melancholy instrumental. The translation of the German part of the title is “The End Of Time,” and it bursts with synthy keyboards and just the right amount of sadness, setting up the following forty five minutes quite perfectly.
Rainclouds Over The Remains Of Hope brings a little more of the black metal I promised. At times the instruments are quite sparse, and you can hear the fuzz of the background noise. It’s all very DIY and shares much with the early recordings of many second wave black metal bands. Not so much the actual music (although it shares the true rawness of feeling and therefore the sensibilities of BM), but the processes behind it. Airs recently released a split which was only physically available on cassette. It doesn’t get much more kvlt than that.
Generally the vocals are low in the mix, the music being allowed to convey all the meaning. We hear layers of harmonies over riffs reminiscent of genre stalwarts Alcest, and the combination is electric. You’re drawn in to this world created by two young musicians who have only been recording together for a little over a year.
You may remember a (one man) band I talked about a few weeks ago by the name of Verwüstung, and that influence is felt here, given that one half of Airs is Verwüstung. The ambient side of Airs can be said to be drawn from Verwüstung, not in any kind of directly obvious manner, but you can hear those flourishes on occasion. Airs though, are an altogether more sad and downcast project.
This melancholy is particularly noticeable on Everyone Has Died Post-Haste. The drums are rolling, the guitars a little fuzzy and distorted, giving the vocals a tad more space to be heard. It’s a haunting track, the closing minute or so decidedly affecting. The voice is ghostly and sublime, there’s feedback, hazy guitars and a fantastic fade out of instruments into a more pronounced vocal line.
Joyless opens with a drum beat that could be straight from a Joy Division song, and it carries on throughout. It’s a little more upbeat than you would expect from that spectacular Manchester based band, but the feeling behind it is very similar. The title not really meshing with what you’re hearing, the music is quite uplifting (you might even be nodding your head a bit), but you can’t escape the fact that it is a terribly sorrowful composition.
We’re Still Drifting could very well be the best track on the album. The voice is the most distinct part of the song, much different than in other tracks. It’s harrowing without resorting to standard black metal screams (even Neige has to have a bit of a shout sometimes), and as you listen to the track you feel yourself falling deeper into a gloomy desperation. It’s overwhelming.
The penultimate track is Passing. It’s another instrumental, featuring samples of police sirens, rainfall and thunder. It’s a heady mix, the guitars building up to a glorious crescendo of noise and feedback. Again, the distinct feeling of despondency hangs over the entire track.
The closing of the album comes with Clear Skies -und zeit beginnt von neuem- (and time begins again), bringing the record full circle. As if the beginning of the piece was a new start, yet the end has brought no further clarification. Rainclouds Over The Remains Of Hope is certainly the perfect title for this album. No matter how much hope you may have for a better way of being, something is always going to come along and piss on it.
We’re Still Drifting.