Aronious – Irkalla
I remember when I checked out the debut album of Aronious, “Perspicacity”. It was ridiculous, heavy, filthy, fast and ticked all the boxes that I want ticked when listening to tech-death. But even more so, it distinguished itself from the norm through the unique eerie atmosphere and the peculiar, constantly shifting approach to songwriting that didn’t leave much room for any pattern to properly sink in. Now, the quintet returns with their second outing, titled “Irkalla”, and before questioning anything about the music itself, my first question was, “What on earth is up with that title?”. With the assistance of my good friend Google, I found out that I was about to descend into the Mesopotamian version of the underworld, joined by Innana, the goddess of love and fertility but also war… huh… Culture nerd pleased. Neck ready for headbangs! Down to the abyss we go!
“Irkalla” struck me even more pleasantly than “Perspicacity” from the first listen. In many ways it still follows their unique brand of unstable, constantly shifting progressive tech-death, but it seems updated both in virtuosity and composition. This album felt to me even more high octane, intense and pulverizing in its technique and ferocity than its predecessor. From the first to the last riff, it is absolutely menacing and does not take any prisoners. But despite that, the composition feels more cleverly arranged, more fluid and coherent, and dare I say, more accessible. The excess in speed and aggression is balanced out by the band’s unique skill in linking and connecting various musical ideas, melodies or rhythmic patterns together in an uninterrupted stream of sound that keeps the listener hooked from the beginning to the end of each song. So, the constituent elements are more whacky and absurd, but the sum total of them coming together is actually a more mature and relevant piece of music.
Aronious – Descent of Inanna
The riffage is a mashup of blackened tremolo picking, chugs, galloping and down-picking, constant runs across the fretboard and various filth-inducing effects like pinch harmonics and scrapes that never takes a break. And the drums have a similar style of constantly shifting techniques between blasting, transitioning and various grooves, to the point where it becomes difficult to tell one apart from the other. In fact I would dare say that 50% of the run-time of the album, the drummer is suspended in transitions rather than settled into a clear beat. I find it insane how they can squeeze so many various techniques and ideas together, often in fairly short amounts of time, but I find it even more surprising how they can give them direction and make them work from a musical stand-point. They do this by gluing them together fluidly, mainly through the use of lead melodies that seem to give a voice to the technical mayhem and also provide the listener with a more accessible musical line to follow. In this way, they can go all out on the tech-madness without making the listener get lost in chaos. Another element that brings coherence and fluidity is the bass, which does so mainly by its fluid and not very distorted textures, which works well when set against the overdriven guitar sound. When you put them together, you get a solid, forward pummeling wall of sound that never ceases for an entire song. And then this massive structure of tech-madness is taken as a whole and dunked straight into a pool of sinister atmosphere that gives it all the life and character it needs.
Aronious – Negeltu
This is where I think the music and the concept start to merge. When dealing with a theme like the Mesopotamian underworld, you can’t just be an angry death metal band screaming for the sake of screaming. There’s something more dark and ritualistic about such a concept. And while I can’t say I know much about the details, the theme itself is enough for me to understand what the music is trying to express. They may have used some orchestration sampling mixed with various textures or sound design to provide what sounds like constant humming on the background of the music, setting a somber, creepy and more steady tone over which the music unfolds. Again the contrast between the hyperactivity of the music and the impenetrable tone of the atmospheric background works wonders at merging chaos into evil order and keeping the music on track. The result is a constant state of tension, where every idea feels like it should resolve into something clear, but only looping back into tension time and time again. This creates a constant state of anticipation for the listener, almost like watching a very suspenseful thriller or action movie where you’re always wondering what’s about to happen next.
Aronious – Nincubura
The vocals also play hugely into the record’s atmosphere. Front-man Brandon Brown does everything to convince us that he is not only from a different species but probably also from a different dimension and different point in time. His vocals sound like the gruesome growling of a mythical monster controlled by evil sorcery rather than the typical spew of a death metal vocalist. When set against the atmospheric background, and enhanced by various reverb and echo effects or layering, he comes off as an evil entity spawned from some unearthly ritual rather than a human. And he’s not only brutal in sound but due to his slightly black metal influences technique and somewhat unclear pronunciation, he ends up sounding like he’s reciting an incantation rather than just singing lyrics. I think you start catching my drift at this point. Everything about the mood of this album speaks either evil rituals or sci-fi alien monsters rather than humanity, and that makes for an incredibly suspenseful and imagery inducing listening experience.
The entire phenomenon is wrapped between the orchestral intro and outro track that seem to work as an opening and closing portal towards this weird other dimension where the entirety of the album happens. Am I just influenced by the latest Stranger Things season at this point? I don’t even know. Regardless, I would recommend this album to anyone fond of either death metal, black metal or progressive and virtuosic music in general.
- Ananaki (01:13)
- Descent of Inanna (05:37)
- Nincubura (06:20)
- Ereshkigal (06:58)
- Enkidu (05:28)
- Elu Ultu Irkalla (06:59)
- Negeltu (06:28)
- Warkanum (01:23)