A horrible hack

Age of Collapse

Burden of Beast

Year Released: 2012
Format: LP
Label: Aborted Society
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Jul 16, 2013
"Burden of beast" is AGE OF COLLAPSE's first full LP after a split 12" and 2-track tour release. The artwork on sleeve and insert is brooding and well designed, featuring rust-brown images of skeletal animals and birds on matte black with silver text. Its polished look signals a band taking care over the presentation of their work, right down to the use of the take-me-seriously Trajan-style font.

Sonically they're giving us epic crust with a good portion of metallic leads and accomplished forays into different time signatures and offbeat rhythms. Each song deals with the fates of animals in the world humans have shaped and voices the imagined thoughts of different beasts. A first listen might have you think they were taking a rather melodramatic tack on the "system crushes us poor humans" angle, but the overall concept asserts itself. Even so, the lyrics approach self-righteousness at times - "these selfish creatures, who have forgotten how to walk close to the ground, will never forgive themselves if they could understand our pain."

The LP tempts you in gradually with an A-side leavened with shorter songs, before the nearly six minute A-side closer "Hands that take" ushers in a B-side of three lengthy numbers. All the songs pack in a lot of material - for example, the two minute opener "Looming giants" jumps from mid-paced cymbal-heavy riffing to fast d-beat with scribbled metallic leads into chiming desolate briefness into gathering mid-paced chugginess - and for me the gear changes between sections are over prominent, giving the early songs a patchwork feel. "Tribal slaughter" builds gradually from a leisurely, brooding 6-bar pattern into a tauter 3, but when the song breaks it's into a complex, offbeat time signature which is given no time to settle before hitting a tom-heavy rolling bit in 4, back into odd time signature land, slow in 4 again, fast again, and so on. The band seem fond of brief disorienting rhythmic interludes, like the break halfway through "Silver Lining", and in these early songs there isn't enough material inbetween to draw me in.

"Hands that take" is heralded by a minute of looming instrumental resonance announcing that this is an Important Song.* Mid-period CIMEX chugginess makes an appearance, again segmented by more time signature play and sections of sweeping melodic leads. The last four songs expand the songwriting template and allow more room for the riffs to gather momentum, leading to "Monuments of promise", for me the strongest offering on the LP. These later songs are more successful for me, but the building blocks of the sound aren't as memorable as I'd like when I give it my full attention, and I find the slow sections a little pompous.

I can't escape the feeling that AGE OF COLLAPSE's take on the crust style represents a kind of overthinking: the desire to create something deep and complex is too apparent and doesn't quite hit the mark. It's just not quite my cup of brutal haunting epic desolation - maybe it's just me, the last time this kind of sound really blew me away was on EASPA MEASA's "Renounce and Dethrone", and that was back in 2004. However, they seem like good people from their internet presence, a band working to make the DIY punk scene better and supporting other folk, and I applaud their ambition and the work that has clearly gone into the LP. I'm sure they put as much graft into their live show and on the right night I'd probably be fist-pumping along at the front too.

*Sorry, I'm a cynical fuck

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