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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
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.
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
(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.
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).
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.
Written for http://threnodies.com