Aronious – Irkalla Review

Well, this could have been awkward. In trying to research this week’s subject, I had become increasingly puzzled as to why I couldn’t find much on them. Nothing on AMG itself; nothing on Metal Archives, nothing on Facebook and so on. It turns out there had been a fluff up in the AMG Engine Room, meaning that the band’s name was misspelled in the promo sump. Once this snafu came to light, it also revealed that Aronious is not, in fact, new to AMG and it would seem I have unwittingly stolen reviewing rights from no lesser death metal scribe than Kronos. In reviewing the 2020 full-length debut, Perspicacity, from this Green Bay, Wisconsin five-piece, Kronos observed that the record was “[t]echnical, slick and sprawling,” and that while the band did not lack for talent, it had simply attempted to pack too much into a hefty runtime. The end result? You’ll “tire of Perspicacity long before it’s over.” Two years and three line-up changes later, Aronious is back. Did they heed Kronos?

Irkalla—the ancient Mesopotamian underworld, incidentally—is a soul crushing slab of technical, dissonant, often progressive, death metal. Just as on PerspicacityAronious seeks to meld the atmospheric dissonance of something like Ulcerate with the more progressive and technical showmanship of Aethereus and even Exocrine. Prepare to have your skin flayed and your skull kicked in, before the creeping horrors of a doom-laden, down tempo passage crawls into view. Aronious has focused on the former, however, with out and out technical ferocity very much the main course here. Metronomically precise blasts from new drummer Kevin Paradis set a furious pace, as the dual guitars of Ryan Brumlic and Nick Weyers trade constantly shifting riffs, punctuated by some killer solos.

Founding guiitarist Brandon Brown returns to fold after some years away, this time to handle duties behind the mic. Spitting venom and bile across Irkalla, he shifts from guttural roars and bellows to something that hints at a blackened rasp on occasion. The record as a whole gives the impression of a journey into the underworld, as hellish soundscapes evolve into the next brutal assault (“Negeltu”) or the out and out technicality hints at a descent into a maelstrom of madness (“Nincubura”). Album highlights “Ereshkigal” (the queen of the underworld) and “Elu Ultu Irkalla” both encapsulate the different aspects of of Aronious, as brutality, technicality and … atmoshpericality … duel for supremacy to good effect, with the latter track reminding of something from Nile‘s In Their Darkened Shrines era at times.

Irkalla is a more mature and more successful record than Perspicacity. In part this is down to the runtime being cut by a third, with Aronious‘ latest effort clocking in at a prim and proper 40 minutes. More importantly, however, the songwriting has evolved, with transitions executed both more smoothly, from a technical standpoint, and also in ways that make a lot more sense from a songwriting perspective. These now contribute to the flow of the record, rather than appearing designed simply to show off the band’s (admittedly stellar) musicianship. I am also a fan of the production, which feels thick and meaty, with a nice pongy tone to the drums, and nothing dominates the mix unduly.

While still an exhausting listen, even at its much slimmer runtime, I didn’t find myself tiring of Irkalla, as I (and Kronos) did of Perspicacity. At the same time, it’s a dense record, into which Aronious has packed a wealth of ideas and influences, meaning that each time percussion-less outro “Warkanum” comes to an end, I slump back into my chair and exhaustedly remove my cans, feeling satisfied but not gagging for more. A little break between listens is necessary to gather one’s strength before diving back in. There is no question, however, that Aronious has turned a corner from Perspicacity, dialing up the brutality and the songwriting to complement the musicianship that was already there. The next record from these guys, whether reviewed by Kronos or yours truly, could, I think, be great.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: The Artisan Era
Websites: aronious.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/aroniousmetal
Releases Worldwide: August 12th, 2022

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