REEKING AURA – Blood & Bonemeal (2022)REVIEW

Corpses rebuilt from unwilling donors and… unnatural deaths. — The major dysfunction stirred up by New Jersey/New York-based sextet Reeking Aura finds ’em aiming for an ‘old school’ death/doom metal sound with their own brand of fucked up NYDM atmosphere and off-color rhythmic choices made, setting aside the more readable normative simplicity of their first tape and now fleshing out their whole gig with surreal mannerisms and palpably psychotic fixation fitting enough for this debut full-length’s underlying “video nasty” sized thematic. ‘Blood & Bonemeal‘ might set up a fairly natural, normative result on paper yet the actual experience cannot help but work itself into a frenzy of ulterior ideas which detract from the usual classicist stimuli in unsettling ways. It’ll likely not catch the ear of normative folks looking for “easy” tradition off the bat but it will undoubted stew in the minds of those whom hunger for the rotten, ragged estrangement of abstraction within the bounds of readable, steady-handed death metal.

Formed circa 2020 between members of Unearthly Trance and Grey Skies Fallen largely for the sake of putting their heads together for a dual lead guitar centered old school death metal sound, it’d be fair to say the end result didn’t necessarily end up being ‘Screams of Anguish‘ part II so much as a mélange of aesthetics pulled together by inclusion of members from outer-realmed death metal crews Afterbirth, Thætas and Stabbed. They’ve generally flipped the script a bit at each turn beyond formation, having only conditionally upheld the violent, unreal vibe invoked on their initial demo tape (‘Beneath the Canopy of Compost‘, 2020) on this album while modulating the rhythm guitar interest (eh, the riffs) to something which often reads more forward-thinking and engaging. This’ll be the only real caveat to be found within their work over the last couple of years, that we’re still reading the cliff notes on the moldering circa ’93-’95 underground death metal tape scene as more bands aimed into weirder and more brutal realms but we’re getting a different semi-melodic voice here which is a bit more to process compared to their first hit of three relatively straightforward songs.

Different but generally improved riffcraft. — Although that initial EP (which landed on a list of 20 Underground DEATH METAL Albums You Missed that same year) might appear almost primitive or at the very least restricted in its rhythmic reach by comparison the only reasonable observation to make side-by-side between the two releases is that Reeking Aura‘ve either evolved rapidly from the more straightforward rhythms of that debut EP or they’ve eased up on the simple ‘old school’ focus in general as they appear to have scrambled to fill this half hour+ debut with every bit of personality they possibly can. The only reality check we have to throw into the apparatus this time around is whether or not the death/doom metal tag actually fits, and I suppose it still does in a ‘Chronicles of the Shadowed Ones‘ sort of way, though closer listens to “Grublust” and “Seed the Size of a Spiders Eye” will sate what most folks will be looking for in terms of classic death/doom metal traits. From my point of view earlier comparisons made to Eulogy and maybe Vastum still more-or-less fit, though we start to see shades of Immolation-esque (or, early Wicked Innocence?) riffcraft and much more broadened rhythmic language altogether on this LP with more direct showcase of the dual lead guitarist function inherent to the original formation of the project. All in all they’ve made a leap and, yeah, a weirding sorta fucked up one.

I will kill you b/w you will die. — At face value Reeking Aura‘s imagery and lyrics depict scenes of what I’d consider blue collar horrors, the grime and rot of civilization as experienced through those who clean it up or deal with the messiest, harshest work which makes life comfortable for all. This turns out to be keen enough perception of the actual concept of their debut album, which *checks notes* centers around a farm steward with lyrics intending focus upon the character’s “morbid psychosis” which intensify alongside personal plight. Within the short story told we are granted specific imagery with examples of pest control, bloody visions of slaughterhouse refuse, and general scenes of rotten excess which seem to tie into a theme of waste, brutality and toil. The unique watercolor washed cover artwork of ‘Blood & Bonemeal‘ comes from Moldovan fine artist Ion Carchelan whose soaked watercolor techniques are typically seen as nostalgic vignettes, indications of motion in memory which oddly fit well into the underlying theme of this album in terms of presenting a setting under a haze, affected by work and affecting its actors. It likewise indicates what I’ve insisted upon calling a “farm to table horror” vignette, or, an intentional conceptual glom of psychological horror influenced images into a ~35 minute set of scenes meant to disturb with “relatable” disturbance of the main character. The band generally succeed in conveying something different, or, at least something beyond the norm with their choice of art, even if the greater plot takeaway might’ve had me thinking of grittier mid-70’s horror features the artwork here steered me away form the obvious into something more interest or at least personalized.

So, of course it says something that I have more to say about the album art and the implied narrative than the riffs on a death metal album but perhaps only because it is such a short album which doesn’t go out of its way to do more than chunk away at the tunnel of riffs envisioned. There are a few moments which yank the mind out of the body-chopping tremors of the action, though, such as the end of “Pyramid-Shaped Plow/The Caretaker” where we’re taken on an out-of-body projection by way of synth or “Blood and Bonemeal” with its dark ambiance and almost neofolk-esque wandering exit. While these moments do a lot of work to slow down the absolute rush to the finish line that Reeking Aura present within these tightly wound thirty plus minutes there was no shaking the feeling that this record needed one more song, one more piece of any kind to really tie it all together. On one hand this emptiness felt is a delusion on my part but on the other hand a death metal band being fairly brief on their debut statement does a lot to avoid their first impression from being taxing or overstated. It ends up being a reasonable enough cutoff point for an album I’m not sure I’ll slap on Repeat All right away but I will definitely pick it up again for the sake of its compacted bursts of brutal intensity and aversion to plain-ass death metal trope wrangling.

With twelve hands on deck you’d think ‘Blood & Bonemeal‘ would be overwrought, tangled in its own web of ideas but the only real collective push these folks’ve all angled into is for the sake of doing something which offers a bit of a challenge to the listener. It is the sort of record you’re going to want to keep around for those times when you need to snap out of your usual death metal shit and take in something that is vaguely familiar in shape but deformed in a compelling, sometimes inspired way. It didn’t completely knock me out of my armchair but at the very least the discomfort and the disturbance of it all warranted a number of rapt listening sessions. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (79/100)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Blood and Bonemeal
LABEL(S):Profound Lore Records
RELEASE DATE:July 29th, 2022

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