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After finding their first album somewhat lacking, I was assured that the followup from Enter Chaos was going to be one of the greatest melodeath records I'd ever hear. I have to disagree with that idea. The chance of me viewing this as the best melodeath album ever was quite simply non-existent before I'd even bothered listening to it, and if the band was determined to make me eat my words then their attempts did not do much to change that.
There are some redeeming qualities, to some extent at least. Compared with what was previously on offer, I would take this any day of the week. Thankfully the band at least seems to be able to put together a tune that doesn't seem to be just noise, most likely because of the reduced number of members. Yes, they finally caught on to the idea that four guitarists isn't a great setup, so they sacked two of them. But then they decided that three people were still necessary, so they got another guy to play as well. Once again it seems like overkill and the differences between their styles remain indistinguishable, to me at least. It's all so generic and the melodies just don't make me feel anything. The rhythm guitars also tend to completely overpower the leads, which would be a bad thing if they sounded like they were actually doing anything useful. Here they just sound weak and uninspired.
Another thing that seems to be overpowering is the noise coming from the direction of the drum-kit. I must say that the drumming is much-improved, but it still isn't nice to hear it over the top of what should be driving the band. It could be worse, but like on their last record I wish they'd tone it down a bit and hide it somewhere that it won't be found when you're not even looking for it.
Something else the band has changed is the role of the bassist. On Dreamworker three of the four guitarists played bass too, but on Aura Sense there's an actual bassist dedicated to doing nothing but playing bass. It doesn't make too much of a difference, but it dampens the level of noise being launched at the listener.
I'm sure some people probably came to Enter Chaos because they are a female-fronted band, but if you're looking to be able to tell that you're listening to a woman growling I suggest you look elsewhere. It might even be possible that she sounds more masculine on this record than on the last one, which basically means she sound more masculine than some men. It doesn't really bother me too much, but at the same time she sound just like every other generic death growling man out there.
Pretty much what I've been trying to say for throughout the whole review is that this is an improvement, but the band still remains far from spectacular. Aura Sense certainly isn't as great as it was made out to be, and although there are good songs like Crisis Connection and Baby the Handgun, for the most part I'd class it as fairly average Gothenburg metal.
A very nutricious slab of modern Death Metal, skillfully combining the Gothenburg-style sense of melody and guitar harmonies with the aggression and sheer force of American DM.
The songwriting is very good, there's a lot of catchy riffs and often beautiful solos and harmonies, which create a cosmic, dreamy landscape and nicely contrast with the brutal rhytm guitars, never letting up the intensity.
The performance of the musicians is excellent, especially the varied drumming and the vox - if i haven't seen a picture, i would have never realised there's a lady behind the mic. Sometimes, apart from the usual deep grunting, she also incorporates kind of a blackish shriek. The songs are complex, with a lot of different segments and tempo/rhytm changes to keep things interesting, but without exaggeration, so that the whole thing is memorable and flows nicely. The whole effect is enforced by the crushing production.
The cd preserves the high quality from start to finish with just two exceptions, the songs Out of Fury and Crisis Connection are a bit sub-par, both usings a brutal, yet clumsy and unoriginal riff repetitevely so i simply have to push the skip button... but well, maybe some people will like those songs more. The rest is magnificent, the best being imo the self-titled Aura Sense, No Name and Baby the Handgun, which uses some interesting electronics. As a bonus - track, we have an alternate version of this song, this time with no traditional instruments, just strange electronic sounds and vocal samples mixed in. Fair enough to give it a listen:)
Overall, the cd is like a rollercoaster ride, fierce yet beautiful, and a completely unique experience - worth the money.