AURORA BOREALIS – Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured (2022)REVIEW

Diabolical enstasis secured by way of biggest-pictured noumena. — The vessel created in mind between a scant millennia of via negativa-shaped nous and intentional temporal detachment may or may not achieve (or intend to achieve) henosis in immersive vision. The documentarian of the path beyond the most obviate and trusted grasp of sentience, or, those driven by the spectacle of that which is larger than the ‘self’ and/or simply unknowable tend to have pushed past the need for reinforced personae and into the bodies and minds of others. The surreal, unreal realm of the imagination begins to manifest its believable fiction in pursuit of reality, a life given to thoughts astray soon leads to creations uncontrollably possessed to life by sheer intent. Maryland-based thrashing blackened death metal trio Aurora Borealis are shapers of complete worlds in this sense, sensational histories willed by the vigor of the explorer’s mind as they cut apart the rivets that demand unified perception and hastily agreed-upon reality. Their eighth full-length album, ‘Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured‘, is a champion feat among many under their belt in a long line of self-driven, self-reliant and distinctly United States-spawned extreme metal works which consider an additive yet personalized extreme metal language birthed from the continuum of thrash, black, and death metal. Wide-shot, precise-yet-brutal, and detailed as expected this latest full-length from the band find ’em thriving in a vast, ever-expanding terrarium of their own creation.

Vocalist/guitarist, engineer, primary songwriter and visionary Ron Vento formed Aurora Borealis circa 1994 after having played on at least one demo tape from Skully Shoemaker‘s (original Hallow’s Eve guitarist) black/death metal project Lestregus Nosferatus, it having gone nowhere fast. At that point Vento had proven to himself that he could basically do everything in terms of songwriting, performance, engineering, and rendering or he’d at least the propensity to learn. In 1994 he’d demoed a couple of songs he’d written for the previously mentioned project with a post-Astaroth and pre-Naphobia Tony Laureano on drums, those songs would later end up part of their legendary debut EP ‘Mansions of Eternity‘ (1996). Now, I say legendary in hindsight since the guy doesn’t get much credit for the high standard he’d been presenting from the start in terms of what’s shaped and set the bar for United States specific black/death metal in the early-to-mid 90’s. Sure, Angelcorpse‘s first album hit in a big way nearly a year later and steadfast independence kept more folks from noticing that EP but you’ve got to give credit where it is due now that access is unlimited these days. I’ll be somewhat thorough with their discography from this point but probably not as detailed as I’d like to be since these folks have a wealth of fine work to pick through in their past.

Independence at a high standard, fealty to the ‘old school’ thrashing standards of classic death metal brutality and the needling potential for expression available to black metal have long fed into what most consider an impervious underground gem-maker in Vento‘s hands. Aurora Borealis are typically a band which crosses wires between Absu‘s oft technical thrashing precision and the ‘Blessed are the Sick‘-amplified rushes found in Angelcorpse, though they’ve always had a bit of brutality on their side which is deeply rooted in Florida’s scenic death metal expanse (Morbid Angel, Monstrosity, Malevolent Creation, et al.) so you can expect riffs throughout their discography, plenty of ’em.

As a somewhat long-term fan I’ve been collecting records from this group since their third album (‘Northern Lights‘, 2000) released, having been drawn in by the imaginative Jay Marsh paintings on their covers, seeing that particular one in a zine ad/feature and thinking it was a Greek black metal band on sight. As it’d turn out that was one of their more signature releases wherein Vento‘s rhythm guitar arrangements began to sophisticate beyond the machine-gunned style he’d lead with. ‘Praise The Archaic Lights Embrace‘ (1998) had a great raw, noisome feeling to its mix that’d added to the chaotic brutality upon introduction before it and ‘Time, Unveiled‘ (2003), their sole record with Tim Yeung on drums, was the breakthrough moment per the rhythm guitar arrangements reaching a sort of narrative to match the snarled and ranting vocal patternation. Consider everything before 2011 a blend of Mk. I and Mk. II ideas that’d forged the identity of Aurora Borealis yet past that point we are in a sort of Mk. III configuration, peak capability matching ideation, featuring otherwise brutal death metal drummer Mark Green as the main collaborator on rhythm. ‘Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured‘ is the fourth full-length from this configuration and very much continues the blazing thread the band has built upon over the last decade.

Though we could accuse Aurora Borealis of precise and brutal aggression as a point of identity from the start they’d start to hit a most frantic, nearly riff salad buzzing level of brutality when ‘WorldShapers‘ released in 2014 as the general rhythmic language of the band expanded, the riffs jumping between a flood of what’d sounded like fresh inspiration for the group, or, at least slightly different production values emphasizing the low end a la the best of Nile. ‘Apokalupsis‘ (2018) expanded upon that idea with more honed direction, threading the black metal side of the band deeper into the guitar work in clearer phrase while easing on the interruptive quality of its predecessor. With this point of view, which is admittedly generalized observation on my part, in mind I’d suggest that ‘Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured‘ continues to iterate while pulling back into the blackened death-thrashing roll of earlier records. Of course I’m mostly mincing words and picking at the dried meat of sub-genre nuance, you won’t find a dramatic departure from their vision on album number eight, existing fans who’d loved ‘Apokalupsis‘ will feel similarly about this one.

Each side of this album begins with a brief introductory piece, in the case of Side A a prophecy foretold in presentation of opening track “God Hunter” with a narrative that integrates both Mesopotamian mythos and (assumed) science fiction elements wherein the sentinel in the rebellion of man against god, Nimrod, appears to resurrect and overtake. No lyric sheet, so, leaving it up to the imagination beyond a few attempts at deciphering the vocals still manages to be a good time. Though this opener features plenty of hanging grooves and brutal battery beneath the performative flair of the band is especially on fire here, finding a mode wherein it never feels like riffs are the only purposeful ridges to cling to on repeat listening. There are however plenty of riffs and elastic grooves, tactical pauses taken, and some additional whammy-diving leads ensure the accost of the song is enchanting up front with its insidious, otherworldly tone. The stylized peak of the first act, “The House Of Nimrod“, is an obvious standout for its cybernetic-implanted death/thrashing riffs and militant pace which meld for an exciting enough rhythmic hook, the first of many reasons to go back and spin the album in excess. What I’d consider the black metal side of the band, which often serves their most dramatic and technical feats in phrase, kicks up to an exceptional point on “Serenade of Designations” to end the first half. Though the piece stops without fully elaborating upon the melody it tousles about for its duration there is a sense of passage beyond the middling lilt of “Ephemeral Rise” before it that’d felt narrative in shape as I’d listened.

As was likewise the case with the previous album, two equal halves are maintained with precise two-sided design in mind as ‘Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured‘ presents another introductory track in passage and another four ~4-5 minute pieces on Side B. The second single from the record, “Founding Fathers of Deception“, of course relies on its guitar hook and strong verse melody to pull the ear back in though it is one of a few pieces on here to do a fine job of featuring new bassist Eddie Rossi all over the track, however subtle, and we get a bit more of this feature on late standout piece “Khafres Mark” as well. The remainder of the album doesn’t necessarily play with vocal cadence or flashier tricks of groove and such so much as we get several fine examples of the rhythmic play which Vento has always excelled at, particularly catching my ear on closer “Cosmic Control Mechanism”. While there are many bright points of interest on this second half it speaks a language well-served on the first half, the same grind of the well-oiled machine in process of production, and this begins to drone on a bit by the end ’til the closer hits.

Those who enjoy the smaller nuances of extreme metal, the pockets of intensity and inventive notions explored within this high-rate riff focused form of black/death metal, shouldn’t be perturbed by a few repetitive vocal arrangements and familiar song structures throughout. There is a glorious tunnel-envisioned purpose in the attack of all Aurora Borealis‘ full-length releases which is yet appreciable here on ‘Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured‘, ensuring existing fandom will not be alienated by this fine eighth record unless seeking something drastically new. The decision on the part of the listener will consider how much they value this band deploying their signature at full strength (as they inarguably do herein) versus trying something more transformative of their gig. I’m on whichever side of the fence serves the best, truly exciting extreme metal guitar music and in that sense the riffcraft which directs the experience here is no less stunning than it was twenty years ago and it helps that there are several pieces here which catch the ear with hooks, novel progressions and such that demand closer/repeat listening. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (84/100)

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.
TITLE:Prophecy is the Mold in Which History is Poured
LABEL(S):Hammerheart Records
RELEASE DATE:November 18th, 2022

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