Monday, 29 September 2014

Aureole - Alunar (2014) / 81%

The meanders of cosmic spiritual fortifications

The first release of this new project created by Markov Soroka (Eternium, Slow) is finally out after two or three years of arduous work and nobody could say that it's not well elaborated. The first demo songs that I was lucky to hear (unreleased) of the project sounded like Sargeist, a very melodic but still raw sort of black metal but the identity of the project changed during its gestation. As a young man, Soroka is kind of guilty of wearing his influences on his sleeves, for Eternium it was Dissection and Emperor, for Slow it was Esoteric, what is it this time around? Well, it's Darkspace and Alrakis! Nonetheless, he's a talented fellow and this excellent album proves it and it still brings his fair share of originality compared to his aforementioned projects.

One of the first things I've noticed is the fact that even though it's clearly an ambient black metal release, Aureole's music delivers the riffs and has an interestingly fast paced tempo. It doesn't mess around with its relatively brief duration for an album of its genre. It has sharp guitars often playing arpeggio riffs (see the exuberantly named Crusade of NGC 5128”) surrounded by a huge platter of keys and unlike the ubershitty “symphonic” golem of Wintersun, it never sounds cheap, rushed or cheesy, fuck off Jari, go play with your toys. There's a lot of non metal influences, some coldwave, some synthpop, I mean, I can definitely hear the mythic Tangerine Dream in there too. The five somber compositions are thoroughly helped by the more than competent production done solely by Soroka himself. DIY or perish! It's crafted with care and it sounds majestic and natural. The songs are lengthy as you would expect from an ambient black metal project but they never really drag your corpse into oblivion, it's a smooth ride into the meanders of space and beyond.

The instrumentation remains minimal but the keys (no midi, guys!) are impressive and they're well mixed to the simple but catchy drums and the repetitive guitars. It feels old, like if late 70s electronica suddenly decided to become heavier. The combination of the different elements has been efficient

Like on Eternium's debut, there's still a concept story underneath it all, it involves space, castles, powerful beings and similar subjects but it's told by the immersing music instead of a lyrical identity where everything needs to be said. To illustrate that point, the 10 minutes instrumental outro “Alunar, Decrepit...” feels like you're in an empty castle dangerously inclined on a cliff surrounded by goodhearted spirits or somewhere in space where you don't quite belong. Furthermore, it's sort of mixing a medieval feel with sci fiction and fantasy realms but weirdly, it belongs together.

Markov's vocals (usually not his strong suit) are buried deep down the mix when they're actually present at all. This works with both the theme and the songwriting found on the album. You're not supposed to be heard in space, it would waste the dark fun of the whole thing. Not exactly raw, Aureole will please most people looking primarily for atmosphere in their black metal, it's rich & subtle music that will lead you astray for a moment while you reflect about your past deeds.

And goddamn, this cover art is superb, press that on vinyl already!

If you're hungry while travelling through space, here's the edible version Oreole!

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