AARA – En Ergô Einai
Switzerland’s black metal scene may be small but it has outgrown the spectres of its past to produce quality black metal that looks to the future. With AARA, the country has a project that takes the core elements of black metal and pushes the composition and emotional clarity to its peak. En Ergô Einai is a masterful display of musical knowledge – classical elements, ecclesiastical tones, synthesised projections, harsh shrieks – that all come together to create a work that belies the relative newness of the band. It speaks of a band who are completely in sync and after only two years as a project it is impressive that such fully realised works are already being made. Although, with just how small the local scene is, it wouldn’t be surprising if the people behind the band were already established in other known acts (those in the band prefer to use pseudonyms and cover their faces with extravagant, Venetian masks).
“Arkanum” is a deliciously rich opening with Vindsval of Blut Aus Nord contributing guitars in the initial moments and creating a base that feeds into the bands textures beautifully – these first steps are the calm before the storm and when “Arkanum” reveals its full self it is in a whirlwind of sound. The melodic channels of the album are divine and each song is laden with clear harmonics that give the listener something tangible to hold onto, something to guide them on the pathway towards revelation.
The lyrics of En Ergô Einai are inspired by the 18th century and the Age of Enlightenment and the search for a truth other than what the Church prescribed and this introduction feels very much of the modern age, a counterpoint to old ideas and approaches and a great point for AARA to work forwards from. Founded by the duo of Berg (instruments) and Fluss (vocals), with drums handled on this record and going forwards, by J, AARA are creating black metal that speaks of the innate human desire to seek the highest point of perfection while also dealing with the knowledge that fires must be burned in order to achieve that zenith. It also seems inspired by their own locality with their name taken from the river Aare and the cover art speaking of Swiss old towns (there is much old architecture still on display in many Swiss towns and they are celebrated as a huge part of the local heritage) – there is darkness in the past and AARA want that to be realised and learned from.
As En Ergô Einai unfolds the idea that local heritage plays a large part in what AARA want to present to the world certainly comes to the fore. “Aargesang (Aare II)” begins with church bells, the sound of thunder and rain and affecting, mournful choral vocal lines that, for this writer anyway, echo many wanderings along the Aare near to my own working location in a town that seems perpetually draped in fog during the winters. It’s perhaps this slightly tenuous personal connection that gives the album a somewhat more influential tone than for some, yet the message still rings true – humankind strives for enlightenment yet it cannot outrun the past.
“Telôs” closes the album with epic, grandiose sweeps of sound; choirs echo in baroque chambers, Fluss’ vocals sit high, her words pierced with rage and screamed into the night air and given ample space to be heard over the, honestly, incredible guitar work that underpins the record as a whole – Berg has a mastery of the guitar that allows it to be heard as another voice and it is incandescent – and AARA illuminate all they touch with sublimely executed and contemporary black metal.
Listen and purchase here.
Mourning Beloveth // The Ruins of Beverast – Don’t Walk On The Mass Graves
Mourning Beloveth and The Ruins of Beverast are not usually two names you’d put together to release a split EP, but that is the magic of releases such as this, sounds and ideas you never knew you needed are brought to life through the lens of two opposing forces. Don’t Walk On The Mass Graves sees the two bands bring together their own ideas as to death and what awaits us on the other side, illuminated by stark and beautiful, minimal songs that speak to loss and its effects.
“I Saw A Dying Child In Your Arms” is a sorrowful masterpiece that sees Mourning Beloveth delve deep into grief to realise a song that is rendered in clean vocals and subtle acoustic guitars and this stripped back and austere approach works wonderfully for the Irish band. Frank Brennan’s voice is rich and utterly believable in its anguish and his words are given the required space to resonate clearly within the soul. The heartache manifests through subtle vocal inflections that crack and rise with emotion and towards the final moments, echoing guitars add dimension until the crescendo peaks with Darren Moore’s gruff voice piercing the gloom. The closing act is shrouded in radiating, bright pain that echoes long after the song finishes and weaves its way into The Ruins of Beverast’s contribution to the split.
“Silhouettes Of Death’s Grace” deals with much the same subject matter as the preceding track yet does it in much more claustrophobic tones that its counterpart. The Ruins of Beverast have long used layers of sound to create an atmosphere of oppression and “Silhouettes Of Death’s Grace” utilises those frequencies to build a song that reverberates with mourning. The darkness that is found on The Ruins of Beverast’s track is hidden in shadowed corners; in the cyclic rhythms of guitar that entrance and in the echoing, doomed voice of Alexander von Meilenwald – the sole member of the band – that hypnotises in its delivery. The more bombastic approach of The Ruins of Beverast doesn’t lessen the impact of the message that existence can be hopeless.
Listen and purchase here.
Stahv – Sundowner
STAHV have been featured on these pages before, with their debut self-titled record, and in the time since STAHV in 2018 and The Sundowner in 2020, founder Solomon Arye Rosenschein has increased the experimentation and honed in on a curious ebb and flow of noise. “Voyage of the Dawndraper” is an unusual start in that it’s all angular garage rock and fuzzy melodies and super weird off-kilter beats and it is in stark contrast to what follows. Perhaps it is meant to throw the listener off, to have them get comfortable before bringing the mood down with the doomed elegance of “All-Seeing I,” a song that brings a country twang to the fore and laces it with a luminous, tangible melancholy. That aforementioned weirdness is still there in the effects driven guitars and the silky segues into organ-led passages but it’s the reflective atmosphere that is pulled throughout that makes it all the more appealing, it’s hard not to become thoughtful when such sorrow is being played.
“Evhgot” follows much the same pathway in that it feels extremely introspective during its slow progression towards the endpoint. It is again drenched in fuzzy atmosphere, a shimmering gauze against the window to the outside and to the unknown. It feels like a cocoon, a place of safety and shelter while the world continues its descent into decay. “The Sundowner” closes out the EP on flickering drones, a solitary (occasionally repeated) vocal line and simple strikes on the guitar which build in intensity as the song moves to the final, desolate breath of Rosenschein.
Listen and purchase here.