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“Out to Die” is one ugly bastard of an album from the self-proclaimed ugliest band in the world. To give you an idea what it sounds like, imagine how Venom would sound if they were actually good. Throw in some Celtic Frost, Darkthrone, and Motörhead, and you’re ready to break your neck.
Not only is this Aura Noir’s strongest output to date, but what really struck me is that it’s also the first time they come up with a great production. Nothing against rawness, but their first album, “Black Thrash Attack”, is so unbalanced it’s just awful to listen to it. Which is a shame, considering it features some of the band’s best songs.
Since then, their album sound has become gradually better, without losing its raw edge. On “Out to Die”, the production is simply perfect. No instrument is too loud, the bass is very audible, and for the first time, Blasphemer’s trademark chaotic riffs sound as massive as they deserve to.
The songwriting has also improved. The songs are way more distinguishable than on the last album, 2008’s “Hades Rise”. The first song, while still good, is the weakest on this record, but from then on, it’s all killer, no filler. Aura Noir unleash a phenomenal tsunami of riffs. It’s fast, aggressive and mean, brutal yet catchy, an album for those who venerate the riff and rank fervor higher than virtuosity. It’s not flawless and certainly doesn’t intend to be, but, damn, what a blast! There’s a lot of thrash and, though they’ve moved further away from their roots, still quite a bit of black metal inspiration, but calling the mix black thrash doesn’t really do it justice. Aura Noir do their own thing, and ultimately, it’s just pure fucking metal – albeit extreme.
Highlights: “Fed to the Flames”, “Abaddon” and “Withheld”.
For those unaware, Aura Noir are an extremely fucking good blackened thrash (or is that thrashened black?) metal band out of Norway, comprised of 3 ridiculously talented individuals that have shown their mettle in various other projects, with varying degrees of resounding success. Aggressor played in Satyricon and Ulver way back in the long long ago, likely before many of you were even born, but now rains fury on the world with the excellent Virus; Apollyon has another day job with Immortal; and perhaps most importantly/visibly, that ferocious bastard Rune Erikson, aka Blasphemer, of ex-Mayhem infamy, now key proponent of all things awesome in both Nader Sadek and Ava Inferi, the latter of which has a tendency to thrill and chill me right to the core with unique panoramas of eerie, forlorn majesty. This is their 5th full length as a unit in going on 20 years, but alas, only the second I’ve heard, having fallen head over heels with 2008’s Hades Rise, but not having had the time to dive into the murky leavings of their past… yet. To be brunt, in case long walls of text don’t jive with your Ritalin-addled brain, this album absolutely slays. If you’re in any way a fanatic of either of its constituent genres, of which I must tack on a spiritual channeling of classic extreme metal, such as Venom and Celtic Frost, or just plain strong metallic riffing, Out to Die is going to impress. Impress may be a bit of an understatement, I admit, as the aesthetic and composition here is so primally pleasing that it should leave fields of cowering posers practically evacuating their bowels with each sharp, muscular blast of riffing ordnance.
Of the above-listed groups, Aura Noir feel most heavily like heirs to the throne of Celtic Frost, though arguments could also be made for resemblance to newer Darkthrone. The dry, cutting gusts of riffing are like the sheering wind of some ancient desert, while the shouted vocals are nicely redolent of older Tom G Warrior, a gruff, kingly wraith commanding armies of the damned. Though the overall core aesthetic of the genre here is blackened thrash, Aura Noir channel the strength of pure old-school heavy metal just as prominently. The barbaric strength of the riffing, the often pounding, war-like pacing, it balances all three of its chosen influences in perfect harmony. This lends further weight to the Celtic Frost argument, as they themselves did not seem to belong to any particular genre, instead utilizing various strengths from each and molding them into something altogether different, advancing each in its own way. While I wouldn’t say that Aura Noir are similarly groundbreaking, or really innovative at all, at that, it simply doesn’t matter when the songs are this good. Whether slicing along with icy blackened tremolo precision or stomping out a banner-waving, mid-paced war march, the combination of pure, excellent riffing and violent, swarthy, charismatic vocals paints a compellingly bleak, ravaged landscape that is just fucking punishing. I must also note that there are a number of fantastic soloes here.
I love the guitar tones; thin but searing, like bolts of hot iron slicing through the skin, or fiery winds cutting across the smoky skyline. In fact, the hugely natural production is quite befitting, with punchy, earthy drums and a good stringy pulse to the thankfully semi-audible bass. It doesn’t really favor the low end, but I have no complaints over sound quality here, a great means to communicate such monstrous, hellish patterns of notation. Out to Die rocks the fuck out for Satan, and if that’s something you’re into, beware the safety of your neck if you acquire it, as it’s liable to inflict severe headbang trauma. At 33 minutes, Out to Die is admittedly quite short, but it’s surprisingly varied in pacing, and remains consistently thrilling all the way through, even if it’s more fun in an immediate sense than it is eternally memorable. I also prefer to have a short record packed entirely with killer material, rather than a longer one with a nice dose of filler. If there’s one thing that holds the record back, it’s that as excellent as the riffing patterns are, they don’t burn into my spirit as perfection. This type of record lives and dies by its riffs, and the guitar work here is crazy good, but it’s not quite amazing to these ears. I’ve got to say though, it’s damn close.
Truly, Aura Noir are here to kick your ass, simultaneously blending aesthetics of vile extremity and embodying the aura of indomitable warrior strength that pervades the best releases of classic heaviness. It’s short, violent, disgusting, and ultimately grand as it batters along with conquering ferocity. Above all, perhaps the most fitting adjective I could foist upon it, like some brazen mantle, is that it’s undeniably fucking metal. It’s just absolutely, completely fucking metal, and that’s both its core strength and perhaps a perceived limitation, in case you’re a vagina. Admittedly, if you’re looking for complexity, depth, or subtlety, they are certainly in short supply here, and some of the patterns are more innately memorable than others, but if you’re looking to get thrashed, this will do it with passion and class, and it’s one of the best of its kind I’ve heard this year, and indeed ever. This is primarily due to the conjured aesthetic and to application of riffs, and more so than any other band, Aura Noir resurrects the dry, vile, pounding quagmire of To Mega Therion and Morbid Tales, modernizing that style without sacrificing any of the barbarous, decrepit spirit that made them so special to begin with. It feels uniquely its own, however, which is the difference between ‘heir’ and ‘pretender’, where this aforementioned throne is concerned. Out to Die may not be an epic, creative masterpiece commanding slack-jawed adoration, but what it does is slacken that jaw anyways with the force of an obsidian hammer, before commanding its undead legions to decapitate and sodomize your family, all for the fun of it. Yes, it’s absolutely metal, and an absolute blast of a listen.
-Left Hand of Dog
The members of Aura Noir have had their hands in some of black metal's most notorious, respected and celebrated bands in the history of the genre: Dimmu Borgir, Dodheimsgard, Gorgoroth, Immortal, Mayhem, Nattefrost, Ulver, Ved Buens Ende, just to name a few. Aura Noir is like the bastardized version of the aforementioned bands. They've always retained the Black Metal attitude of the members' other bands, and the listener can pick up on the huge influence there, but bits of classic German Thrash and Crust Punk really come to the forefront.
Rather than toiling away in obscurity, Aura Noir finally signed a record deal that will distribute their music further than their neighbor's basement. I mean, holy hell, there was a copy of this sitting on the shelf at my local mall. Aura Noir have released some freaking classic albums in the Black Thrash genre: “Black Thrash Attack” is a powerhouse of ripping black thrash tunes that is unrelenting from start to finish. On the initial listen, “Out To Die” is not much different from Aura Noir's previous releases. There are some anomalies that I would like to point out, but let's not beat a dead horse, this is classic black thrash executed to a big upside down tee (wait, did I mean cross?). Aura Noir and “Out To Die” are exactly what they claim to be: black thrash metal.
Whereas previous albums have displayed Aura Noir at their dirtiest, rawest and most primal, “Out To Die” shows the band dabbling with (gasp!) better production. Gone are the days of recording albums in your mom's bathroom. Gone are the relentless blastbeats and trash can lid cymbals. Every instrument, including the bass, can be heard quite clearly. The guitars, as usual, are quite loud in the mix, but not to the point of drowning out the vocals.
To the uninitiated, Aura Noir is a rather raw and dirty black thrash band, usually relying on attitude rather than virtuosity or musical prowess. Thrash influenced, tremelo picked riffs; angry, raspy, shouted vocals; blastbeats and Fenriz like hi-hat weaving. There you have Aura Noir in a nutshell. “Out To Die” should be no surprise to anyone familiar with their earlier works, production values aside. Some songs sound like they could have come straight from early Sodom and some songs sound like a less crusty version of modern-era Darkthrone. Either way, Aura Noir have really brought a solid slab of angry black thrash to the masses with “Out To Die”.
Aura Noir dabbles in death metal on the opening track here, and it's really the biggest disappointment on the album. After listening to the opener, I was left with a sudden urge to shake my head in disbelief. It's not that bad of a track, really, it's just Aura Noir is black thrash, not black death or whatever you want to call it. Even the vocals take on a deathy growl, rather than the raspy shouts. Thankfully, that's where the death influence ends.
The rest of the album shows the band doing it's trademark chugging with extrapolated fills. The drums sound like Satyricon or Darkthrone, blastbeats mixed with thrash and crust elements and the weaving hi-hat throughout. The vocals are excellent: for the most part a raspy, shouted style, similar to standard black metal, only without the annoying shrieking. The riffs are stellar and are definitely headbang worthy.
Honestly, if you would take away the first track, this would be a monumental album. This may be Aura Noir's best work to date. There is nothing groundbreaking here, but this is a solid slab of enjoyable black thrash. Recommended to fans of thrash and black metal. If you like black thrash, you have Aura Noir to thank. Not an essential album for every collection, but highly recommended.
Written for The Metal Observer (www.metal-observer.com)
In this age of musical mediocrity, few black metal formations are managing to maintain over time a high standard of quality and artistic intransigence, preferring ease and convenience. Fortunately for us, serious amateurs, there is the Norwegian band Aura Noir. Formed in the mid-1990s, this trio composed of Apollyon, Aggressor and Blasphemer launched Black Thrash Attack in 1996, a real bomb that pushes the listener into a corner with music inspired by Bathory and most thrash masters of the 1980s. Speed, brutality and virtuosity combine to give a result that strikes hard, making the album a must for any serious black metal fan.
The band came back two years later with Deep Tracts of Hell (1998), this time without Blasphemer, gone making party with Mayhem. With a raspy production, this album takes us even deeper in the rabbit hole. Then, silence. It takes six more years to finally witness the release of (despite the accident suffered by Aggressor) The Merciless (2006), a twenty-seven minutes punch-in-the-face album, launched on Nocturno Culto’s label (guitarist of Darkthrone). Then came Hades Rise (2008), Thrashier but with less bite than its predecessors. Are the northern warriors sobering out? Out to Die (2012) gives us the answer: no.
This new album, released by Indie Recordings, evokes from its first notes the glorious beginnings of Aura Noir as a trio, Blasphemer having returned from his excursion. Trenches furiously throws hostilities. Unequivocally, the band returns to its good habits. It hits hard, with fast drumming and frenzy guitar parts, which display all of Aggressor's virtuosity. No respite with Fed To The Flames, excellent title on which I intend to unscrew my neck if I ever get the chance to hear in concert. Abbadon again allows the two guitarists of the band to spread their know-how with fast sequences, often quite complex. However, the tempo slows with The Grin From The Gallows, a weighing and oozing tune, but Withheld knocks back immediately with its typical thrash rhythmic that, without shame, we could find on an old Venom or Sodom album. The madness continues with Hellish Fiend Priest's and his rowdy introduction, then its arrhythmic progress, immediately followed by Deathwish, built around a punk rhythm. The title track concludes brilliantly the album, creating a beautiful symbiosis between black and thrash elements of the band's music, before getting lost in a maelstrom of sound.
Rarely a record has been so misnamed: it should have been called "Out to Kill!" Since obviously, it is the main intention of the band! Fast, nasty, with a production made of reinforced concrete, this album demonstrates brilliantly the know-how of three musicians in full possession of their resources. A well deserved nine out of ten! 9/10
Originally written for metalobscur.com
An Aura Noir release is, among many other things, a surefire way of checking the health of grisly, underground thrashing black metal for these Norwegians are at the head of the pack when it comes to showing the middle finger to the current metal trends and instead press forward with a heady mixture of metal passion, rehearsal room sweat and beer-soaked clubs. Now on LP 5, "Out to Die" does not aim to change the past formulas, but instead provide 32 minutes of carefree caustic mayhem for all the 'bangers out there.
Like Nekromantheon recently, the black/thrash concoction of Aura Noir does not aim to be as evil as a pure BM record, but thanks to it's speed and attitude it ends up recalling the punk spirit of old, spitting blood at all the wannabe practitioners of these extreme arts. Straight from the off with "Trenches" and following through into "Fed to the Flames" this exuberance is evident: the swirling riffs of Blasphemer & co sitting proudly over the frenzied drum attack and dual vocals of Apollyon and Aggressor, nothing done to sound pretty but with the fire of metal burning fiercely inside. All eight songs on the album offer a similar stylistic feel and length (nothing shorter than 3 minutes, nothing more than 4:45) but this has never been what Aura Noir are about. If it were not for the snarled vocals "Withheld" could be a Municipal Waste track for the main until their archetype AN top string lead work comes to town; "Deathwish" is the older crustier brother to Darkthrone's recent work being equal parts retro thrashing and blackened spite before the closing title track aims for the jugular from the outset in a typically underrated fashion yet its effectiveness is great as a closer. My expectations of it in this week's live London show are high I must say.
Self-described as the 'ugliest band in the world' Aura Noir fit that billing with their typically metal style combining the grit of underground 80's metal with a clearer production style than their brothers-in-arms Darkthrone ever feel inclined to employ (not that it bothers me, mind you…). 2008's "Hades Rise" is a hard album to beat and remains a darker sounding release than "Out to Die" but for the kind of F.U. that is often required when dealing with a world that believes the music in Kerrang! mag passes for metal, bands like Aura Noir will forever remain the beer-stained and foul-smelling truth.
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
I've only recently started to listen to Aura Noir, but I fell for thrash in 2008 and black in 2011, so this was a welcome addition to my musical vocabulary.
"Out to Die" is a fast-paced, rotten hellbeast of an album. The magnificent cover art and the general take-no-prisoners attitude of the band sets the mood from the get-go. And, of course, this is Aura Noir we're talking about - you kind of know what to expect.
'Trenches' starts with feedback, but quickly goes into tremolo riffs and droning bass. 35 seconds in the first solo of the album starts (I presume that would be Blasphemer :P), and then 50 seconds in the first rotten rasps are heard. Welcome back, fellas!
'Abbadon' is the first (only?) single from the album and starts with tremolo riffs akin to, for instance, 'Power Thrashing Death' by Whiplash. It is a good representation of the album as a whole.
'Priest's Hellish Fiend' stands out. It has an intro taken from Metallica's "Hit the Lights", but that says little about the rest of the track. It seems like they really tried to give everything on this track, in particular. It almost swings back and forth. The occasional solo over the great rhythmic riffs gives the song a very old school feeling.
The only thing I kind of miss from the album is a slower-paced, grooving song. Don't get me wrong, much of the album grooves in primal rhythms, but I miss a song that takes you into a trance, kind of like the intro of "The Rape". It would give this album an extra dimension.