Augury – Illusive Golden Age (2018) REVIEW

Fourteen years ago Augury‘s not-so-humble beginnings where aggressively avant-garde compared to brutal/technical death metal of the early 00’s on ‘Concealed’. The hyper-speed Therion dual vocals that gravitated from prog-metal male/female operatics, hissed melodeath scowling and Nile-like gargling were appropriately ahead of their time judging by how little technical/progressive death metal has intensified since. Their plucky bass noodling a la Atheist and stylized sound on their debut could readily stand next to anything released today with only the drum production sounding lightly dated. Oddly grating as the vocal experiments were, Augury were one bright spot of enlightened space at the edges of an era of brutality.

The extended space between releases helped Augury maintain a ‘quality over quantity’ reputation though the five year wait for 2009’s ‘Fragmentary Evidence’ wasn’t necessarily left with a thrilling reward. Though their second album was heavier, and they’d reduced the operatic female vocals to a relative extent, the album featured a guest vocalist on each of the nine tracks, some featuring two guests. The voice of the album itself was as schizophrenic as their increasingly progressive arrangements, held together only by the grace of Dominic LaPointe‘s inimitable bass work. As the band went silent for nearly a full decade his work in Beyond Creation would largely fill the gaps for a lack of Augury-ish presence, though I think fellow The Artistan Era labelmates Inanimate Existence‘s release from 2017 came very close to matching presence and technique.

To wait nine years for a follow-up to a, unanimously mediocre, second album initially had me wondering what grasp would any fan have on this band’s fluid personality to recognize Augury in 2018? To start this is the least ‘bells-and-whistles’ release from the band to date who have employed a ‘new’ drummer and stuck with their quartet for all performances. Patrick Loisel‘s sporadically hissed vocals and guttural growls paired with LaPointe‘s basswork immediately evoke the core of what makes Augury distinguishable from a majority of progressive/technical death metal bands out today. The production feels intimate and even claustrophobic at times with layered guitar compositions wrestling between ethereal technical death metal scrawling and more measured shredding trading off with expected bass guitar leadership. It is an incredibly intimidating listen at first, unlike Augury‘s dense and elaborate production previous. The important note is that they’ve retained identity a decade removed.

The drum work of Antoine Baril is exceptional here and it shouldn’t be a huge surprise if you’re familiar with his work on Deviant Process‘ ‘Paroxysm’. Because a modern progressive death metal album from an old band requires some greater level of dynamics beyond post-Necrophagist projects like Obscura, this was clearly a demanding arrangement and I feel Baril’s performance is notable. The song-writing is actually opposing to what Gorguts has done in recent years, dialing up conceptual sounds and atmospherics while becoming avoidant of flashy or predictable bombastics. In fewer words: They’re not afraid to shred and most of ‘Illusive Golden Age’ has some form of ‘solo’ or impressive feat in motion at any given time.

Without a trained ear for cluttered technical death metal and a passion for progressive bass-driven excursions a lot of ‘Illusive Golden Age’ may come across like a spastic blur of excited performance. If nothing else Augury have retained their sense of dynamic variation and realized it’s necessity on a densely composed progressive metal album, so the atmospherics are kept light and the attack of each song has at least some variance compared to the one before. “Maritime” does a wonderful job of flowing from the exit of “Mater Dolorosa” and then pulling the listener away with surreal keyboards and increasingly melodic sections. Moments like this feel like proper movements and transition that aren’t baked-in for the sake of arrangement but for the sake of song. I could hope for different speeds when it comes to drum blasts, but perhaps that’d lose some of the album’s flow.

‘Illusive Golden Age’ puts out no airs of expectation with it’s outpouring of inspired ideas and new adventures in melodic/progressive death metal. Instead the band have kept their heads down and focused on this modern vision for prog-death that has just enough technique to feel world class without a hint of the more pompous side of Augury‘s beginnings. I felt the real peaks of the album must include “Carrion Tide” in terms of riffs and their interpretations of melodic death metal sort of living on from their past, likewise the textural elements of “Maritime” which were a major draw when I’d return to the album. “The Living Vault” is a nice showcase for LaPointe‘s bass work and the variance of style throughout the album, with a bit of Cynic-minded progression. “Parallel Biospheres” is likewise a standout as I felt it gave a nod to the style of their second album but improved upon it’s brutality with unexpected harshness rather then simply smoothing over it’s ugliness. A definite recommendation for prog-death fans and technical death folks who aren’t offended by melodic death prevalence.

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Artist Augury
Type Album
Released March 30, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Augury on Facebook
Genres

A liquid desert beneath us. 4.0/5.0

 

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