We're all hypocrits, especially when applied to the music we listen to. We hate one band, but love another that sounds almost identical. We make musical decisions in the most petty of ways. But when we attach ourselves to a band, it gets even worse. We want our favorite artists to stay the same, to continue making the music that we've come to expect of them. Then, in the same breath, we complain that this album sounds just like the last one. We want progressive, but not at the risk of change. And, like it or not, we are often let down by how those two things happen. But for the last few years, we've followed Italy's Australasia, and despite those same needs and wants, have yet to find disappointment. Their third album, simply titled Notturno (which is Italian for "night") strikes an interesting compromise between evolution and separation. It manages to stay the same, and yet give us something new all at once.
The best and brightest bands, regardless of style or substance, play to their own strengths. For Australasia, this means finding the intricate balance between lead and support, the former being crisp post metal riffs, while the latter is their sparing and well placed electronic elements. Notturno is, of course, no different, with thatcombination finding a home very early. And while I'm sure there are a slew of bands attempting the same stylistic mashup, you likely won't find a band doing it with such ease, and subsequent success. What results is a smooth layering of sounds, easily discernible, but coming through as though they are truly a whole, rather than the sum of random parts. The use of left channel/right channel dynamics is both smart and well executed, particularly in Kern. It's a subtle technique, but one that can help to surround the listener in your music. That is precisely what happens by the midpoint of the album, as the strings and piano fade out on Creature.
Of course, an album can't always be subtleties and studio tricks; substance is the reason we accept or reject bodies of work. Notturno, despite a majority of the album being vocal-free, conveys a great deal in its beauty and simplicity. You won't find a flurry of wild solos here, nor would you want to. It's about textures in the guitar work, and the way the kick and snare sync up with one another. And because they've carefully and meticulously balanced the left and right channels, rested the layers on top of one another delicately, you have a chance to forget that you're listening to an album, and not sitting just outside the door of the practice space. Time doesn't even come into play here, with a five minute song ending in what seems like a flash. When the title track, a simple but effective piano melody, begins it's descent to a final destination, you'll have a hard time believing nearly 38 minutes have passed.
By staying true to the sound they've created for the last few years, Australasia have formed and maintained an identity. They can be heavy without being cliche, and introduce outside elements without watering down an otherwise exceptional piece. But, at the same time, they have managed to change just enough to keep each subsequent release fresh and new. Notturno finds that safe balance between old and new, refining the sounds of the previous two albums, while also moving the boundaries farther and farther out. The result, another stellar outing from a band that seems destined to fill a catalog with nothing but. Their sound won't necessarily appeal to everyone in the heavy music spectrum, but it will strike a chord with many. Notturno isn't a one dimensional, single appeal type of record. And after three albums in as many years, we're not surprised.