I once jumped from the roof of my parents’ double-wide trailer with a cape/kite attached to my back and a four-foot plastic snow sled duct taped to my chest. No, I wasn’t drunk—I was ten. And, man, it hurt. Fast forward twenty-one years and you’ll find Father-of-the-Year Grier scaling a tree, scooting out along a solid cottonwood branch, and falling twenty feet atop a fence—my feet hitting the top strand as my face hit the ground. All because yours truly refused to hop the fence. And, guess what? It didn’t hurt at all. Because, yes, I was drunk. Those truths aside, I’ve never (fallen?) or thrown my soon-to-be corpse from a four-story building. But, I guess that separates Grier from Aura Noir’s Aggressor, a pansy from a warrior, peanut butter from jelly. That’s the extent of the badassery of Aura Noir‘s Aggressor. So, be like Aggressor, man-up and jump headlong off the sixth outing from Norway’s black/thrash masters.
Aggressor no longer plays the drums (ever since his heroic plunge), but his (mostly) instrument-alternating, (mostly) three-piece group set the bar back in 1993 for what we know to be great black/thrash. The band’s Black Thrash Attack debut is still one of my absolute favorites of the genre. From there—with many-a guest appearances from the black-metal elite—the band continued to release album-after-consistent-album. Some are better than others, like Black Thrash Attack and Deep Tracts of Hell, but each still pump me up and prepare me for fucking people up. But this new record begs the question: how long can a one keep this up? Here’s hoping Aura Noire‘s extra “e” doesn’t fuck things up.
Approximately five seconds into opener “Dark Lung of the Storm,” you’ll know this is Aura Noir. In a deep pond of blackened thrash bands, Aura Noir still maintains a distinct sound—combining Aggressor’s gnarly, Aldrahn-like rasps and shrieks; Blasphemer’s nasty, thrashy, loud-as-hell riffs; and Apollyon’s machine-gun blast beats and cymbal-cracking smashes. Once this three-and-a-half minute pity comes to an end, the band drags your stinking corpse into another three-and-a-half-minutes of washboard roads. No joke, the combined drum and guitar sounds just like my skull passing over cattle guards at eighty miles per hour. It’s a sick riff that pushes the song hard to the end.
While “Grave Dweller” has a rad riff, “Demoniac Flow” has a kickass one. Pulling straight from the likes of Goatwhore, but with a classic heavy-metal chug, this high-energy piece rocks the record’s center. But this is short-lived and Aura Noir soon turns to what they do best: unloading back-to-back bone-snappers filled with the crusty riffs. The first is the short “Shades Ablaze,” the second is the five-minute “Mordant Wind.” The former comes at you like a knife-wielding psychopath, slashing and screaming as it charges head-on with its victim. The latter alternates between a grooving, mid-paced stomp and flailing, fretboard frenzy. When it’s coming unglued on the back-half of the song, the guitars spin about like a descending tornado. And when “Mordant Wind” settles into its main riff, I get goosebumps. The combination of the slick, groovy riff and Aggressor’s vocal delivery summons my swollen cranium into a bob.
Unfortunately, not every song is a winner. “Hell’s Lost Chamber” opens like a sequel to its predecessor, “Grave Dweller,” but its drawn-out rise-and-fall approach makes it the least memorable of the lot. And, while “Cold Bone Grasp” has plenty of energy, it’s a little too Darkthroney. To the point that I can hear Nocturno Culto behind the mic. It’s not a bad song but it feels out of place near the end of the album. Then, in old-school black metal fashion, the album concludes with the always appropriate “Outro.” This closing instrumental mixes Voivod with Annihilator for two thrashing minutes. But, it doesn’t matter if it’s the first listen or my last, I’m still trying to figure out why it’s here.
When compared to the band’s older output, this record doesn’t quite reach the bar. The band’s earlier records are low on filler and so chock-full of black ooze, that it pours out into the street. Aura Noire lacks that same gushiness. Still, most of the songs shred, as only Aura Noir knows how, and Aura Noire‘s thirty-minute length makes it easy to return to on a regular basis. It’s not their best, but it’s another solid record from Norway’s most-famous grave robbers.