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After the Black Thrash opus The Merciless, a four-year hiatus has haunted the Norwegian scoundrels AURA NOIR, during which Aggressor lost the use of his legs after a fall and Apollyon joined the reformed IMMORTAL. Thus things were looking dark for a follow-up to the now classic 2004 hellstorm, but luckily for us these guys are unstoppable, and thus they finally make their filthy return to the underground.
While some bands try experimenting with their sound to keep up with the times, AURA NOIR have stayed faithful to the old-school since their conception in 1993. Thus they remain smack in the middle of the 80s Thrash attack and the recent revival, with total disregard for whatever the current trend might be. "Hades Rise" is no exception, and even though Apollyon handling the drums makes for a more mid-tempo affair than earlier, the sound is still unmistakably that of the ugliest band in the world. The riffs range from cool to absolutely killer (“Shadows Of Death”, “Iron Night/Torment Storm”), and the vocals (which are, as usual, done by both Apollyon and Aggressor) are as raspy and whiskey-drenched as ever. This time around Blasphemer (ex-MAYHEM) has taken on a more passive role than usual, only contributing with leads in three of the songs, without this really detracting much from the overall musical quality.
The slower pace of this album adds an apocalyptic vibe to the mix, and also proves to be the perfect invitation to a headbanging-frenzy, with the raw unpolished sound being as evil as ever. The dirt-stained gems are plentiful, and the riffs are bleeding black blood all over the place, just like you should have come to expect from these guys. There is no doubting that AURA NOIR is one of the finest bands to ever carry the Black Thrash-banner, and hopefully their reign is far from over.
(Online October 12, 2008)
Written for the Metal Observer
Aura Noir is one of a few bands active today that I will rush to the local record store with any degree of enthusiasm to pick up their latest offering (Keeping in mind they DO have the benefit of decent distribution which cannot be said for most of the truly noteworthy acts percolating in metal's black bowels today). I was only slightly less-than enthralled when I heard the sample tracks on Peaceville's mini-site in promotion of the album but I liked what I heard well enough to spur me to seek more. In hind-sight, I chalk up my lukewarm first impressions to the unworthiness of the average laptop's built in speakers to accommodate high degrees of sonic ferocity.
So, the release date came and that familiar giddy anticipatory feeling my less-jaded metal-brethren know so well crept over me. It sets in later now that my mind is clouded with the soul-flatteningly banal aspects of 'normal-ass person life' as opposed to the several days of anticipation prior when I was an angsty (I'm taking the word back) but essentially dutiless youth. Without further fanciful banter (hopefully, if not, oops), here are my impressions upon popping this thoroughly vicious fucker in my trucks not-bitterly-enviable-but-slightly-above-average sound system...
"Oh, okay... mhmm... Yeah, fuckin' hell!... Oooouuaaggh!" and then, subsequently throughout the duration of the album, enthusiastic musings made to an impartial passenger that usually started with, 'Ugh, that's so fuckin' cool because...' or simply, 'Goddamn!'. Subsequent listenings have consistently found me silent but with an uncontrollable grimace spread across my face punctuated by frantic headbanging and accompanied by the sporadic raised fist or horned salute to the sounds before me. I don't resort to the traditional metal posturing over nothing.
So, I've done a fair job of illustrating that I really like this record but considering I hate reviews that are pure unqualified reaction, I suppose I should make some sort of an attempt to explain WHY I like it so goddamned much.
For starters, the production is spot on, as far as I am concerned. Though I have no qualms with the deceptively clean sound presented on 'The Merciless' (and I sure as hell have no issues with any of the songs), I don't think 'Hades Rise' would be quite as effective without the layer of 'ashy-de-polishing' added to the sound. I can't really get technical about it because I am not well educated in production techniques but I can say it services the songs and pussies accustomed to the more popular sound of 'metal' prevalent today aren't going to be put off.
I don't think I've ever heard the word 'bestial' used anywhere outside of a metal context but Apollyon spits it like the band's forebearers and influences from the eighties owe THEM a couple bucks. I have always likened Aggressor's vocal style to a re-animated or crazed aristocrat of sorts which is somewhat diminished at times on this album as I find it only slightly difficult to discern who's on vocals from track to track. In any case, it doesn't really matter considering it sounds as if both parties smoked two packs of Lucky Strikes each and then gargled with and partially swallowed a fistful of stagnant earth before stepping up to the mic (this is fucking metal and so this is obviously good). All in all, perhaps a bit less distinct and so we lack a bit of the vocal variety of the last album but all is nonetheless well (No guest vocals this time, either).
Most importantly, the riffs remain solid as ever but with a certain swagger I can't recall hearing to such an extent prior. As I will speculate in a minute, this album feels like rock embellished thrash in large part (but it does, true to form, out and out thrash consistently). Label mate Danny Corralles (Autopsy, Abscess... like you didn't know) does a guest solo on 'Gaping Grave Awaits' summoned by Apollyon with the incantation of 'Kill, Danny, Killll!!!'. Also, anyone foolishly concerned with the effect the absence of Blasphemer (except for a solo) would have on the riffs or guitarwork, no worries. He is indeed an excellent guitar player but nothing is missing here.
(Note: This fucker is already getting long in the tooth so I'm going to hope you'll pick this album up and rely on your ears and not my words to relate the superbness of the riffage throughout instead of rambling on about the merits of each song)
'Hades Rise' is both a departure and a logical regression of sorts (kind of like how Darkthrone's last two albums can be said to reach back to influences that predate the bands earliest output and in effect, regress to a sound that is 'older than their old sound'... dig?). In the former sense, one of the prime differences could be attributed to Aggressor's complete absence from the drum kit (due to, I assume, serious injuries he sustained from a four story plummet a few years back that has left him wheelchair bound -- this could account for, by and large, the 'black and roll' tempo and style of many of the tracks). Historically, Aggressor and Apollyon have shared time on all instruments, notably on 'The Merciless' where vocal and drum duties were traded off song to song revealing a marked difference not only in the vocals but in drumming technique depending on who was behind the kit (To clarify, I'm not sure how they've handled it on the albums but live shows had the now departed Blasphemer on guitar with Apollyon and Aggressor splitting drums and bass/vocals). Apollyon generally handled the mid-tempo songs whereas Aggressor was at the helm for the full on black thrash assault tracks. Fortunately, Apollyon has proved on this album, though he may not fully possess the flashiness or speed of Aggressor's style, he can produce a more-than serviceable blast beat when called for with overall playing being tastefully primitive.
Packaging wise, the Increased Damnation logo rears its head once again though is far less an eyesore this time around. No real complaints aside from a lack of printed lyrics. The old-school 'band doing shit with their friends from other bands' photo collage in the liner note fold out (Appollyon in ridiculous white pants, Fenriz playing croquet, Nocturno Culto on a dirtbike, Aggressor and Blasphemer in showercaps and is that slack jawed fucker Scott Carlson from Repulsion I see in there?) is nifty as fuck but a lyrics booklet would be preferable considering their lyrics on past efforts practically demand to be shouted from a podium in their Baudelaireian grandiosity. Though I am a great admirer of Luciferian symbolism in all esthetics, I often find myself put off by the redundancy of heathen lyrics so I need to stress that Aura Noir have an unmatched kind of necro-pomp or, to borrow a phrase from their own 'Black Deluge Night', an 'elegant wave of devastation' to their lyricism. That said, I really wish I had a reference word for word what is being hissed... its not as if an integral part of the listening experience is forfeited but it is worth reading along with or in this case listening closely to their lyrics. Anyways...
If you've actually read this far, firstly, shit, I'm sorry. This is my first attempt at an album review ever. My next submission will be more to the point and concise. Secondly, I hope you've gleaned an inkling of the excellence of this album from my words and will go buy yourself and your closest denim-vested cohort a copy.
It mustn't have been a nice period for Aura Noir. A long break divides this "Hades Rise" from the previous "The Merciless", and it’s been a forced one: one can't start running a band again when you have fallen from the fourth floor and lost the use of both legs (if forever or for just very long is yet to see).
Way more bitter is the fact Aggressor was a highly praised drummer, who had contributed in the early works of plenty fundamental bands (as Ulver or Satyricon). And it’s surprising to witness how it's been during this period that "Hades Rise" has been written, without anything to filter through. They have not lost a single ounce of their sarcastic black feel, no less bitter but more less indulgent than the most depressive black scores.
They play traditional black metal, but are not similar to DarkThrone or Immortal; they play traditional black metal, I say, and then substantially are a very very harsh thrash band with satanic attitude and deviated lyrics, in the same way Venom, early Bathory, early Sodom, early Kreator and early Mayhem did back then. Ooops, I forgot one of the most important sources: early Voivod, from whose discography some songs really seem to have been taken ("Pestilent Screams" that has also the same tempo of "Nuclear War", "Schitzoid Paranoid"). Double ooooops, I have not mentioned Motorhead: the punk 'n' roll vibe is very present, in the vocal parts and in the guitar riffs too.
This is a magic band, an illusionary band. Because they give the impression to be playing the same old song, and with a raw technique, but actually they are quite various (the songs mostly are mid tempo based, but frequent accelerations give a bestial twist), and the riffs sparkling and fanciful, though they are one of the most old fashioned groups on Earth. And in the case you haven't understood it yet, let's say it clear: they kick ass!
Originally written for Silent Scream http://www.silentscreamzine.com/Home.asp?Lang=ENG