Aronious – Perspicacity Review

It’s about goddamn time for an hour long prog/tech death record. Though they fly in the face of this website’s mandate that no album exceed the runtime of Reign in Blood, I have to confess my love for these things when they’re done right. Some of my favorite records from the last decade were such interminable pretensions, showboating prog-tech-death records that outstayed their welcome so long they just became part of the family. But for every The Aura, or Timelessness, or A Tunnel to Eden I come across, there are about five equally ambitious outings that fail to connect entirely. Those odds are not good, and yet each year newcomers fly in, screaming; “Grade me! Look at me! Evaluate and rank me!”

And as it is my solemn duty, I must do so. Before the podium this week is the debut from Wisconsin’s Aronious, a prog/tech death outfit with impressive chops and no lack of ambition. Across Perspicacity, Aronious can’t relax, and nor can they yield, relent, or… uh… Anyway, they’ve heard every tech death band and will pretend to be all of them. Ulcerative atmospheres, Unfathomalbly Ruinous grooves, Obscure melodies; look, I don’t need to punish you further with this line. This album has about ten thousand riffs in it and a lot of them are pretty sick. In fact, I’m generally impressed with the album in small doses; the band never fall back on chugging or simplistic leads to punctuate their songs, always rotating new riffs in via slick transitions.

Despite the band’s skill in weaving all these threads together, the result is far less than the sum of its parts. Perspicacity feels through-composed in the worst way – songs begin and end at random and contain arbitrary material that’s not thematically unified or distinguished from anything else on the album. The band constantly cycle through pantomimes of other tech death acts – in “An Assembled Reality,” Aronious assemble riffs from Decrepit Birth, Inanimate Existence, Ulcerate. A second after the song ends, movement two of Perspicaity begins and they’re back to Inanimate Existence, then Beyond Creation. I couldn’t tell you why any of this happens. If you’re willing to pay attention to it for longer than forty seconds, Perspicacity will punish you.

But if your attention span is so compressed, Perspicacity isn’t half bad. The instruments are articulate and balanced, the performances impressive, and the band come up with good ideas often enough that an inattentive listener will find something to lock on to every few minutes. Yet keeping that lock is a real test of endurance. The album is uniformly loud; the vocals monotonous; the guitar tone, invoked to handle both shreddy prog runs and oppressive dissonance, is too loose to feel athletic and too thin to feel crushing; the band seem to do the Inanimate Existence chord chimes every few minutes. Or maybe they only play the chimes once or twice – the album is so impossible to follow that you lose all sense of time and direction listening to it.

Aronious are a hungry young band and throw everything they have at their debut. As a result, Perspicacity encapsulates The Artisan Era’s aesthetics better than any album before. Technical, slick, and sprawling, it devours its runtime at a relentless pace. The band’s synthetic approach to technical death metal – attempting to marry abstract and dissonant Ulcerate-isms with the slick and proggy sounds of Obscura and Beyond Creation – is far from new. Records from Aetherius and Vipassi spring to mind, but Aronious win this tek war through sheer stamina. That only means that you’ll tire of Perspicacity long before it’s over. Ulcerate don’t play shreddy scale runs and Beyond Creation don’t lapse into hellish atmospheres; when Aronious synthesize these disparate approaches, they neutralize the effects of both. While the former two bands have met success because of their clear and articulate artistry, it’s hard to imagine Aronious’s discursive work achieving anything similar1. Perspicacity does everything at once, and that’s why it loses me.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps
Label: The Artisan Era
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: March 13th, 2020

Show 1 footnote

  1. Prove me wrong, kids!
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