Grey Aura (2010+)
TAPE 2012 by Zwaertgevegt
1: The Last Autumn
I've dealt with it before, but it's always a challenge to review music from a (sub)genre that's not entirely my thing; it always takes more than two or three runs of the release before I put pen to paper. Grey Aura is a rather new band, featuring Ruben of Folkstorm and former musician in Mindroth, in the doomy corner of the black metal genre. Because I usually ignore 'depressive' black metal releases and things that tend to lean towards that particular area, I won't compare them to anything that is classified as such. I always like to travel back to the roots of modern black metal, so the reference point I choose is In The Woods... Despite the fact that ITW owes much to Pink Floyd and other progrock, and Grey Aura is going for doom metal with a black metal sound, I hear similarities in the atmosphere. Grey Aura has a lot of clean guitars and melancholic riffs that are well performed, and uses the distortions only when it's needed in the rhythm guitar section. The use of a lot of high- and midrange makes this sound like black metal. The opening track, which is actually a long intro, suffers a bit from a repetitive clean riff, but the rest of the songs offer pretty well balanced and performed clean parts (on some, I would've liked to hear them better on acoustic guitars). The few typical black metal parts are not bad at all, although the production of the demo (except Lost in a Haze of Memories, strangely enough) is shaky. I doubt it's just the mp3-versions I received to review, but the drums I hear sound like a rehearsal recording, with muffled kick and snare and a pretty dominant set of cymbals. This (lack of) balance tones down the intensity of the music and cancels the melancholy of certain riffs. Slow music, in my opinion, always needs a well defined and clean drum sound that carries the music and won't get in its way. My verdict: this one could do with higher production values to lift it from a demo to a proper release. This band is not there yet, but it's promising, and Zwaertgevegt is the label you should check out for it!
Review: NLBMe Exclusive, October 2012.
Beschryvinghe van Drie Seylagien, ter Werelt Noyt Soo
double CD 2014
And here's a change! While I described the band's Candlesmoke as an okay first effort, this next release immediately skips a lot of the necessary evolution that Grey Aura went through, going straight into a well-produced concept black metal double album. I wonder if this is partly credit to the success of Dutch band Carach Angren, which has been releasing concept albums for years. The musical improvement of Grey Aura is of a significant amount and the songwriting and production are pretty solid; this clearly isn't a demo. Musically it has plenty of traditional black metal elements, a good dose of progressive parts, slow passages in between the up-tempo material, lots of melody, vocals that remind me of Liar Of Golgotha's Ancient Wars, and an overall sound that leans against Immortal's Pure Holocaust (not a bad choice). Grey Aura seems like a totally different band now, but in this case it's a good thing. It seems they have things the way they want them, having perfected the album for over two years... Thematically Grey Aura dives into the icy world of the Dutch explorers Willem Barentsz and Jacob van Heemskerck, who - together with their crew - were forced to spend the winter of 1596/7 on the Russian island Nova Zembla in a self fabricated shelter they dubbed 'Het Behouden Huys'. To give the story more depth and a real addition to the lyrics and (very) long album title, several short interludes that resemble parts of a radio play on the subject are used. It's a unique approach, and it works well. With the right marketing mechanism in place, this could bring the band a lot of attention. You might wonder if a full-length album would have been enough. It might have, but it doesn't really bother me that this one lasts for about 90 minutes, and if there's a story to be told, tell it. Still, not every riff that comes by might be memorable or add something new to the already very crowded black metal palette, so there's still plenty of room to grow for this band (as far as I can tell, these guys are still quite young, so don't despair yet), and this album is worth the money.
Review: NLBMe Exclusive, November 2014.