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A fine note to end on - 95%

La_Noche_Trieste, February 9th, 2014

After reuniting in 2011, its a fair guess that there were high expectations of Lunar Aurora. Their previous album Andacht was considered a masterpiece within the black metal underground for one, and there are always high expectations of the first record a band releases when they reunite (Black Sabbath last year being a more prominent example). Because of this it was inevitable that whatever they put out, they were bound to piss someone off as people are a fussy bunch. As it happened, the album was generally well recieved, though didn’t escape criticism as some regard Hoagascht as oversimplified and mellow when compared to its predecessor. However this I feel misses something as although Hoagascht might differ from the dark and merciless Andacht, Hoagascht is still a solid black metal album for reasons I shall outline. I will be referring to Andacht quite a lot throughout the review, the reason being is that its simply the best reference point given its popularity and distinctive sound.

Firstly despite being its immediate successor, Hoagascht does sound markedly different from Andacht. The first thing to note is that the audio quality is slightly lower, resulting in a harsher timbre not dissimilar to Lunar Aurora's first albums such as Weltengänger. It should be noted though that this doesn't pose a problem given the decrease in quality is fractional and everything sounds clear with no one aspect of the instrumentation drowning out the others. In many respects The fact that the production is slightly more low-fi is arguably what gives it its distinctive sound, though for listeners coming straight from Andacht, it may perhaps take some getting used to. The overall atmosphere of the record is different as well. Whereas Andacht was fast, relentless and incredibly dark, Hoagascht by comparison feels much bleaker and colder, largely as a result of the keyboards. This is arguably Hoagascht's main draw as through the right instrumental combinations, it manages to create some of the most vivid and emotionally powerful black metal tracks I at least have come across (Geisterwoid being a prime example).

The guitars are the main driving force of this album, and although they aren't used at the expense of anything else as previously stated, its worth noting that they aren’t quite as complex as in Andacht. For one, they aren’t as fast for the most part, and tremolo picking doesn't feature prominently unlike in other black metal albums. Throughout much of the album, this then means that the guitar comes across in an almost droning manner, and whilst not sounding monotone anyone who values fast, frenzied riffs may be disappointed. That said, there are moments when the guitars speed up, thus giving them a real edge to them. In any case, the ponderous manner in which the guitars are conveyed is in fact a praiseworthy feature as opposed to a flaw of this album as combined with other aspects of the record they add to the immersion immensely. Finally it should also be noted that there isn't much in the way of base. Its not absent by any means and the guitars are certainly meaty but they do sometimes seem somewhat thin, though nowhere near as much as in some black metal records where one wonders if they even used a base guitar at all.

As in Andacht, the use of the keyboard is an integral aspect of Hoagascht’s sound, and as with any good metal band which uses synthesisers, they function so as to embellish the overall melody of the given song and not simply act as a substitute for decent guitars. The ambient effects vary in sound and feel from track to track, which again is deserving of praise. Sometimes they can sound ethereal, other worldly, and to a degree soothing (e.g. Beagliachda and the introduction to Im Gartn). Other times however they can feel much darker, colder or melancholic (e.g. Nachteule, Håbergoaß and Geisterwoid). On some tracks all the other instrumentation dies down slightly (sometimes even completely) for a short period whilst the ambient effects take over, doubtless with the intention of emphasising the atmosphere created on the given track. Often it works quite well although other times it doesn't quite create the same suspenseful effect and you're left wondering when the track in question will stop arsing around and start up again (for example Wedaleichtn). Thankfully these moments are few in number. Overall throughout the majority of the record, the synths work brilliantly in conjunction with all the other elements of the album, thus making it so much more immersive and captivating.

With regards the percussion, there isn't really a lot to say. Like the guitars much of the time they are fairly ponderous and slow paced and its fairly accurate to say the drums are what gives the record its tempo. In these instances they're fairly unremarkable, but its when they break out into blast beats that the drums come into their own. The blast beats aren't particularly fast or hard hitting in comparison to those in other black metal records, but they do a decent job of suddenly speeding up the tempo and thus drastically altering the atmosphere, to the effect of making it more mournful. As such although not the most polished aspect of the album, its fair to say that the drums do a pretty good job of reinforcing the record.

Naturally this album isn't seamless. Whilst the majority of the tracks are incredible, there are one or two exceptions. Reng for instance has a decent introduction, but other than that feels somewhat directionless and meandering though nowhere near to the same degree as Wedaleichtn, which feels so devoid of any real atmosphere or emotion it actually stands out from the rest of the album. Furthermore there is little variation in the vocals, which manifest in the form of mid pitched growls and snarls. They're not bad by any measure, and often they even fit the album's dreamy feel, but if one once again compares them to Andacht and the vocals therein, it becomes apparent that although not exactly diverse, the vocals in Andacht did alternate between ominous growling not dissimilar to those in Hoagascht and high pitched shrieks. Though not much, switching between these two could in turn change the record's overall feel at a moment's notice. Nevertheless this criticism is nit-picking to some degree as none of these factors manage to affect the overall listening experience, let alone ruin the record. Any drawbacks in the album are either infrequent in their occurrence or are vastly outweighed by the album's positive features.

To summarise its fair to admit that as many people have rightly pointed out Hoagascht doesn't really break any new ground. The techniques used to define this album have been used time and time again by the likes of Burzum, Paysage D'hiver and Lunar Aurora themselves (Its worth noting that in terms of technique Hoagascht differs little from Andacht, save for its execution). What merits this album however is the effectiveness in which these techniques are deployed, and here Hoagascht really does shine. The buzzy, dreamlike guitars and captivating ambiance create a truly immersive experience that is seldom matched. Unfortunately this would be Lunar Aurora's last masterpiece, as the band split permanently in November 2012, coincidentally a mere three or so months after I discovered their material and naturally half the bands I come across seem to feel obligated to disband soon after my discovering them if not long before. Its sad then that one of the most interesting and to an extent overlooked black metal bands around is no more, though one can take comfort in that they went out on a positive note at the very least.

Highlights: Nachteule, Sterna, Habergoaß, Geisterwoid

And just like that, they were gone . . . - 93%

Midnyte13, January 7th, 2014

Let's not kid ourselves. Black metal isn't exactly a breeding ground for experimentation. The boundaries of what can be considered black metal, and accepted by black metal fans are relatively narrow. Sure, the genre allows for more experimentation than something like punk or hardcore, but on the whole it's more restrictive than other non-metal genres. All things considered, black metal artists have managed to get an amazing amount of mileage out of the genre over the past 20 years.

So what's a black metal band to do in the year 2012? The boundaries of speed or heaviness can't be pushed much further. Black metal has already been mixed with most compatible genres. It doesn't seem that there's much room left for innovation. Lunar Aurora seem to have taken this into consideration when writing their final album, Hoagascht.

Hoagascht was translated by a Bavarian friend as a small, informal gathering of musicians playing music for a neighborhood. A better name couldn't have been chosen for this album. The overall production is clear and thick, yet roomy and highly organic. The tracks on this album are made up of mid-paced basic black metal. This is “no frills” stuff. The only instruments here are drums, bass, guitars, and sparse background synth somewhat reminiscent of Hvis Lyset Tar Oss era Burzum . One unique characteristic about the synths is that rather than the typical orchestral samples that are heard in most black metal, the band utilized modern digital synth sounds. The synth typically floats around in the back of the mix at times sounding like a hazy dreamlike cross between an owl and wailing wind.

The song Sterna begins with a basic, downtuned black metal riff played over slow, methodical drumming. Synthesizer flourishes wail at the end of each bar accentuating the guitar riffs. The song slows down into a verse which is delivered in low, black metal vocals. As the verse progresses the riffs move into a prechorus. Yes. This is great! The band is combining black metal aesthetics with real chord progressions. Eventually the song quiets down to a reveal a lone, waving synth sound; then it explodes into full force with wailing vocals. Most tracks on this album follow a similar structure. This is one of those albums that is perfectly represented by its cover artwork. There is no better way to depict the atmosphere of this music than the image of a lone owl flying through an evergreen forest in the full moon light.

Hoagascht is one of those albums that takes a few listens to fully appreciate. There are no amazing stand-out moments on this album. It pushes no boundaries. Instead, it stands as a rock solid example of basic black metal. This is Lunar Aurora's final album and I'd say that they wisely went out on a high note. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, they simply made a very good one.

Standout Tracks: Sterna, Geisterwoid

Lunar Aurora – Hoagascht (2012) - 80%

Asag_Asakku, May 29th, 2012

Some resurrections are truly miraculous, and I’m not referring that of Jesus Christ. I'm rather evoking Bavarian band Lunar Aurora, who after six years of silence, returns with a new album called Hoagascht (2012). Founded in 1994 by Benjamin "Aran" König and Andreas "Whyrhd" Bauer, this band launched eight full lengths, all being atmospheric black metal classics, before separating in 2006, for private reasons. The story of the group is indeed punctuated with events that have nothing to do with their immense talent: frequent changes of musicians, many problems with labels (including two that failed simultaneously), etc. Anyone would have been tired of that. Yet it is with great disappointment that I learned the end of their adventure: Elixir of Sorrow (2004), Zyklus (2004), Mond (2005) and Andacht (2007) are still among - in my opinion – the best albums of the genre. Fast, even aggressive, bathing in gloomy atmospheres, these albums sketch the outlines of a dark world where death lurks.

Working now as a duo, Aran and Whyrhd resume the adventure of Lunar Aurora. Right from the introduction called Im Gartn, we recognize the band’s trademark, with its misty sonorities. But as the song progresses, we notice a difference with the style once practiced by our Bavarians: rather than relying on a brutal voice / guitars couple to carry the titles, they now rely more on atmospheres that give body and wrap the "metal" passages. The image of the owl flying over the forest depicted on the cover is not accidental. It announced the general theme of the album, which suggests an evening walk in the wooded mountains, at the mercy of the elements. Several songs also include sound clips evoking nature, like the cries of animals (owl, precisely, on Nachteule) or weather (a thunderstorm on Wedaleichtn). Writing is also much more nuanced and subtle than before, evidenced by the wide diversity of sequences and moods, especially on tunes like Geisterwoid and Reng. On learning that the battery was programmed on this album, I still had concerns, but they were quickly swept from the first listen. The sound is very close to a real instrument, to the point where I wonder how they did it! The band is also using a Bavarian dialect for all lyrics, giving a local flavour that is reminiscent of Windir and his job with Sognamål, an odd Norwegian dialect.

Hoagascht is perhaps a turning point in the career of Lunar Aurora. Long been a studio project only, the band may be seeking to develop a music more personal, more mature and less "black metal" than before. Given the result, I will never complain of such a change. This album takes us into the mountains of Bavaria, shrouded in mist, while listening to beautiful music. 8/10

Originally written for metalobscur.com

Welcome Home - 85%

FaultyClockwork, May 20th, 2012

Literally translated, Hoagascht, the title of Lunar Aurora's first album in five long years, means "home-garden". However, as Whyrhd explained in an interview with Lords of Metal, its greater meaning in their region of Germany is "a loose meeting of musicians to perform in one’s home’s garden." It's no surprise that the lyrics of the album are wholly in the Upper Bavarian dialect: This music comes straight from their hearts and their hearths. Lunar Aurora are indeed home. Before I begin, I find it impossible not to mention Lunar Aurora's incredible 2007 release Andacht in relation to Hoagascht. After such a brilliant album, it was hard not to have high expectations for Hoagascht, and I want to get out of the way my thoughts on the matter; Hoagascht does not trump Andacht in the slightest, but still presents for the listener a nocturnal world, frigid in temperature and deep in atmosphere.

Lunar Aurora have always made use of dark ambient synth work to broaden their music's atmospheric power, but in Hoagascht synth use is a particularly important part of the music. From the dark ambient opening of "Im Gartn" to the closing rainfall of "Reng", every track has some ambient element that contributes heavily to the track. The riffs in the album aren't throw aways by any means. Rather they coexist with the electronics, providing for the listener an interplay of texture and tone to create an enveloping atmosphere. One need only listen to the beautiful synth melody (of sorts) in "Beagliachda" or the minimalist synth touches of title track "Håbergoaß" to hear what I mean. In fact, the latter song's synth use is even reminiscent of that in Burzum's classic "Burzum" (aka "Dunkelheit").

The riffs stand strong on their own more often than not. Most aren't instant classics like those on Andacht, but the main riff of "Sterna" is absolutely beautiful, those of "Nachteule" are freezing cold, and similar moments appear throughout the album. The riffs are appropriately frigid in sound and often surprisingly heavy, with thick chords shifting throughout the music, often conjoined with electronics. The riffing is burgeoned by a strong production; every note is clearly heard, my only complaint being the somewhat mechanical sounding nature of the cymbals. The vital need for synths and guitars to blend well is satisfied by a good mixing job as well.

As far as complaints, my only explicit one is that there is less variety in tempo than in previous Lunar Aurora albums, such as Andacht and Zyklus. A greater variety in mood that can be created by tempo changes is missing, and is probably the album's weakest point. Still, Hoagascht is a beautiful and emotional album, an excellent example of ambient black metal. Lunar Aurora are back, and I'm glad to have been invited to their home.

http://curseofthegreatwhiteelephant.blogspot.com/

Good to have them back. - 75%

Andromeda_Unchained, April 9th, 2012

This is the ninth full-length from German black metal stalwarts Lunar Aurora. It has been over five years since their last release Andacht and this sees the end of the band's hiatus, returning with a strong album in Hoagascht. The band's sound here is very atmospheric, melodic, although not without its fair share of actual black metal and quality riffs.

Getting some minor niggles out of the way first, mainly the vocals. The style of rasps used coupled with the German language/accent sounds awkward, I would have preferred a more indecipherable shriek/croak. Secondly is the overlong introduction to the album opener "Im Gartn", spoken word and the almost dance electronics really gives the wrong impression; it almost feels like I'm listening to some underground German dance music.

Now, onto the good times... For one the riffs here are really cool, with some interesting delivery in places. The atmospheric sections are also really well done, and wonderfully placed. They range from natural folk, woodland styles to haunting, early Blut Aus Nord soundscapes. After getting off to an almost false start with the first track, "Nachteule" delivers the goods and from here on the album proceeds to develop and open up as it goes on. The later tracks boast great atmosphere, and are really enjoyable. I think fans of the band will no doubt enjoy this release, and whilst probably not as good as some of their earlier work; it's good to have them back. Well worth checking out!

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com

Soaring on through the night - 94%

Wilytank, April 4th, 2012

(Originally posted by me to the Metal Music Archives: http://www.metalmusicarchives.com/)

By the time I've caught on to Lunar Aurora, they've already split up and reformed; but I've found what I've listened to already so interesting that I was looking forward to their latest output Hoagascht. The band has downsized, only maintaining Aran on instruments and Whyrhd on vocals. Regardless, these two veterans march on and make a very strong atmospheric black metal album.

See the art? The owl, the tree, and the moon? These things fit the atmosphere very well. Throughout the entire album, I think of an owl flying through the forest under a full moon and a star filled sky. Compared to their previous entry, Andacht, the atmosphere on Hoagascht is much more consistent. One thing that boosts this is the much bigger role the keyboards play in this album compared to Andacht, provided that Andacht didn't need the keys as much since the lead guitar on that album was used as a very prominent instrument. That attribute isn't present in Hoagascht; the guitars are still layered, but there's no outstanding lead guitar. The keys here never make the music approach the boundaries of bombast though, and the guitars are the main instruments that carry the songs' melodies and tone; and the drums, while programmed, sound natural (especially when compared to the drums on Mond and Andacht) and go with the album well.

Though much of the music is played mid-paced, such as "Im Gartn" and "Geisterwoid", there are faster pieces like "Håbergoaß" and the ending of "Nachtuele". There's also the slower epic, emotional sounding "Sterna" which is probably my biggest favorite from the album. The only track I really have a problem with is "Wedaleichtn", which starts out fine but then cuts to a prolonged sample passage that feels like it takes up a third of the song or more; so we've got a little time waste, but it's just a little impurity in an otherwise really clear glass of water.

This album just falls short of a top tier ranking. It's not as great as Elixer of Sorrow or Andacht; but I definitely like it more than Mond, which was a good album itself. Hoagasht was a shift in the band's style though, and may bring a third era of the band as far as music goes. If so, I'm eager to see what all Lunar Aurora can do with it.

The return... - 84%

nilgoun, March 11th, 2012

Hoagascht is the ninth record Lunar Aurora will release, which is quite impressive. The Bavarians never lost themselves in the same old jog like other bands, they managed to feature new, refreshing concepts and altered their style quite a bit from record to record while maintaining quality. The resonance they got, for nearly every record they released, is quite impressive, as all critics sung in the same tone: a positive one! So it’s quite sad to say, that Hoagascht won’t be able to step into the footsteps of its predecessors, but I guess it wouldn’t want to, either.

The guitars are, compared to previous records Lunar Aurora released, quite reduced and therefore only offering a basic fundament. This shifts the focus from catchy riffs to a catchy atmosphere, which seem to work quite well. The reduced guitar sound offers enough room for the drumset to freely evolve and it almost seems that the drums are setting the note. This wouldn’t be enough to make a fancy record and so some other elements are added. The most important would be the ubiqitous synthesizer sounds and the samples they use to set or alter the atmosphere according to their needs. The atmosphere is quite the same for all the songs, disregarding the special characteristics of each song. Therefore, every song is featuring a gloomy and mystic atmosphere which is implemented through an earthy/rustic sound. According to an interview (in german) Hoagascht features the thoughts of the band on their native home/region.

Exactly this is the reason, why the lyrics and song titles are held in an upper Bavarian dialect, which totally makes sense concerning their concept, but it also scared some people off. Fears concerning the featured dialect are totally out of place, as you won’t be able to understand the lyrics anyway, since they are done in a harsh, gurgling way. The tracks seem to have no real highlights on the first sight – well, sometimes even after you analyzed them totally – but on the second one you will discover the subtle synthesizer sounds, that are creating structures that are full of details. Another attempt to grant some depth is the usage of samples which are interwoven into the songs, trying to grant some change. Thos samples mostly feature well known elements like the noise of water, wind or tempests, but also some strange noises or the sound of owls yelling.

This often helps to keep things interesting and to intensify the atmosphere, but it sometimes advance to a disturbing sound, like the middle section of – the by hook or crook weaker – Wedaleichtn. Besides those interruptions of the arc of suspense and the mentioned lack of highlights there is not really much left to complain about. It would be quite the contrary, as I want to praise the programmed drums, that were done by Aran. Those are programmed with a lot of love for details and even feature slight changes in dynamic, so only really vigilant listeners will recognize that it’s not real, as only some little elements are conspicious (first of all all of the effect cymbals).

Conclusion:

The return of Lunar Aurora will not fail to leave its mark on the black metal scene – but it won’t hit it comet-like either. The record offers a really thick atmosphere and is quite well rounded as well. Although it has no real highlights on it, it hasn’t any real failures either, as only one or two songs are weaker than the others. Hoagascht won’t be able to surpass the majority of its predeccessors, but it will easily outperform others (like Mond). Although they changed their style another time, you still will be able to recognize the typical Lunar Aurora sound and if you loved their other records you should love this one, too – at least if you can free yourself from overdrawn expectations.
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Written for http://threnodies.com