Let's talk about maximalist, over the top, ridiculous bullshit for a minute here. In the realm of over the top metal, I tend to prefer the catchier stuff, hence my love of Rhapsody (stop being idiots, you know they rule). But with that in mind, there is another subsect that can work equally well, despite my miniscule inclination to seek it out or listen to it, and that is the long, drawn out narrative. The terrible, terrible city responsible for both Nelly and the worst bunch of goons currently in hockey has produced such a band that has in turn produced such an album, Eternium's Aura Vesuvianite: Repelling a Solar Giant
Basically what we have here is a hearty mix of Emperor, Sacramentum, and Septic Flesh. Or more succinctly, symphonic black/death metal with a high arching concept of love, balance, betrayal, and hatred and insanity permeating sonic soundscapes that traverse astral planes and other obscenely pretentious adjectives. Really, I can't go into too much detail because that would be doing a disservice to the storytelling present on the record, but I wholeheartedly recommend you read along with the lyrics as you listen to this, as it works along the same lines as something like Traveller where simple knowledge of the story behind the music adds and entirely new dimension to everything. Knowing precisely what the creator had in mind here actually does make everything just a bit more enjoyable, as it at least gives some sort of background to the ridiculous Tengu wails.
Yeah, let me address the things I don't like first, because really there are only two. One of which is half of Markov Soroka's vocals, the other thing being parts of Chad Griffin's keys, namely the awfully cheap violin patch. Oh lord these strings sound cheap as shit. I realize we're not talking about a Fleshgod Apocalypse style budget here, but everything else manages to sound good enough for what it is, so it's really distracting when this straight-out-of-Runescape MIDI sound just comes tearing through what is clearly meant to be a very emotional passage. It's not enough to ruin anything, but it's enough to be distracting. And then the vocals... well, about 80% of them are very, very good. He wanders around from a deep Johan Hegg or Niilo Sevanen type roar to a more traditional Swedish black/death rasp, and he does both of them extraordinarily well. The problem lies in what I've dubbed the "Tengu screams", because everything I do can somehow be tied back to videogames. For those who weren't just going through puberty in the early 2000s, Tengu is the final boss from the bouncing game, Dead or Alive 2. Now, I haven't played this game in ages, and I don't remember at all what Tengu sounded like, but I know that when I hear the completely crazed and whacked out ramblings and cacklings that signify certain characters in the story of Aura Malachite losing their sanity, all I can imagine is that Soroka looks like this fucking guy:
All in all, Aura Tourmaline is a very dense album, with a lot of things happening within every given passage. This works to its advantage though, as the songwriting is definitely up to par with the adventurousness of the compositions. It shouldn't be a surprise that there are no pop structured songs here, all of them being these sprawling journeys that branch out in all directions at once. The entire album is surrounded by an aura (fuck you) of emotion, and it's a surprisingly very feelsy album. The aggression is only at the forefront about 60% of the time (especially on "Aura Amethyst", easily my favorite track to be found), while the rest of the time the center stage is taken by the always present atmosphere. Amongst all the tremolo and blasting, there are also these dissonant, droning passages that just ooze the essence of sadness and loss. The feeling itself is easily discernible anyway, but the feeling is amplified when the lyrics are read along/understood as well. The band has really already mastered the art of getting emotions across without blatantly yelling about them, instead channeling them through the music itself.
Despite the rough edges in spots, Aura Feldspar is a flawed gem (fuck you again) that is most definitely worth listening to. I feel like if enough time is taken with the sophomore album, and more attention is given to the little quibbles I've nagged on, it could really launch the band into the upper echelon of extreme symphonic metal that Fleshgod Apocalypse has been helping to make so popular recently. When the vocals are good, they're great, and when they're off, they're just plain silly. It's a very mature and well composed debut effort regardless, and if nothing else, you should check out "Aura Amethyst", because it's by far the most intense track, and "Aura Sentium" is by far the most emotional. Those two show the two sides of the bands at their strongest, without either side being devoid of the other. The album as a whole is... well, just well put together. I'm not sure I see it cracking my year end list quite yet, but it's a hungry enough effort to at least be gunning for a low spot.
RATING - 84%