If there were ever a truly miasmic force within classic post-millennium death metal forms, impossibly blurred yet always capable of wild sense, one grand option would be Vancouver, British Columbia’s Auroch. Birthed as a thrash metal band (Tusk) that soon took on a new name and transitioned towards progressive death/thrash metal, Auroch developed adjacent to the materialization of related and then increasingly popular Mitochondrion; Each band managed incredible full-length demo CD-rs in the mid-to-late 2000’s that remain infamously inspired. If you own original copies of Auroch‘s ‘Stranger Aeons‘ you’ll understand what I mean when suggesting whatever form (or line-up) they’d approach then-and-now their output remains consistently ambitious in its textural and stylistic range. After some major line-up shifts and a full transformation into a brutal blackened death metal trio a la Ulcerate, it’d be the second Auroch album (‘Taman Shud‘, 2014) that broke them into greater view for the masses and though I appreciate all of their prior work that was the record that struck upon something special and characteristic of the still young musicians involved. You could argue that ‘Mute Books‘ (2016) either iterated or transcended the past, I’m inclined toward the latter, but either way it was a high water mark that was difficult to see past. To be sure four years of silence from the band lent some greater gravitas to that prior album, deifying it for my own tastes and creating a hunger for something of equal depth and detail. So, what can this latest ~20 minute EP do to re-render the escapement of Auroch? Is it a step beyond, a reintroduction, a worthy successor? No, yes, yes.
‘Stolen Angelic Tongues’ once again finds Auroch working with Arthur Rizk in aiming for an incendiary yet monastic hall-sized render, crisp and floor-crashing yet chasmic when the mood calls for it. As often as you’ve seen Auroch‘s sound compared to auld Cryptopsy, Nile and Kataklysm in the past their brutally achieved double-bass blasted approach to rhythm now pushes the bass range down to a less prominent, more subterranean state as a five piece, allowing equal voice for the glass-shattering fray of the guitar work and multi-vocalist approach. With Funeral Circle‘s drummer on second guitar and Tusk/pre-‘From Forgotten Worlds’ vocalist Culain back in the fold the full listen definitely feels less claustrophobic, a tweaking of Auroch‘s established sound rather than a transformation; For my own taste that is a great thing, though I’m not sure it arrives at the level of detail that built ‘Mute Books’ up in my mind over the years. Ritualistic dark ambient swells, chanted melodies, Mesopotamian incantations, spiraling-forth atmosphere and some ‘Dawn of Kouatl‘ worthy riffs all make for a solid reminder of why Auroch are still a special force in modern day Canadian death metal.
“Carving Axis Mundi” is the centerpiece of the EP for my own tastes, especially the second half of the song’s slither into an Immolation-esque lurch that introduces a leitmotif carried as a slight melodic theme across the destabilized and reconfigured ‘axis mundi’ narrative within, specifically finding its echo in the drifting soundscapes of “Erecting the Axis Mundi”. If you’re looking for riffs, “Hideous New Gods” and to some degree “Coffin Nails” offer the heart of the guitar performances showing their typical broad range of influences from mid-to-late 90’s brutal death, classic Floridian death metal, and notably less of the dissonant whipping found on ‘Mute Books’. As a fresh chunk of pure Auroch this EP is up to their previously established high standards and has the appropriate holistically-sourced black/death metal feeling they’ve always brought so, established Auroch heads and curious death metal fans alike will find this fine EP a meaningful place to continue or, to start. High recommendation.
High recommendation. 4.0/5.0
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