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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.