There’s always been a desire to take metal onwards and upwards to its greatest extremes and only a damn-fool metalhead would begrudge that. I mean, that’s what brought us here in the first place right? Take Aara’s blend of high-pitched, high-speed, high-octane shoegaze on helium that’s designed to daze and delight in equal measure as you float your way down the high street elevating yourself from whatever thing it is you might need to mentally elevate from. The first album, So Fallen Alle Tempel, was a decent stab at the formula that has doubtlessly been tried a few times over by black metal bands seeking to cut a more opulent and ethereal edge. I seem to remember giving it a spin at the time but probably dismissed it as failing to provide anything a cut above what is already cluttering up my Bandcamp downloads and waiting in vain for that extra listen to propel it into cherished repeated play territory. Revisiting it, I must admit I maybe should have pushed on through – the inspiringly titled penultimate track De Profundis actually has a nice lurching, unsettling riff and Rote Trümmer which follows is a gale-force adventure which stands on its own.
But En Ergô Einai is something quite different. Not in any revolutionary way but listening to the albums side-by-side it like the difference between watching old Maiden gigs with Di’Anno in the back of a pub and then flicking on peak-period Bruce at Wembley. The production has been sharpened up to razor-edged levels separating everything, but leaving it no less tumultuous and projecting Berg’s lead guitars nicely to the fore – more weight but more solidly shrill and helped by some punishingly rapid basslines. Vocalist Fluss, while very much in the background by comparison, still stands out even more as a result of the demisting of the sound. Somehow it also allows her astonishing high pitch to shine as the battle-scarred soul, defiant in the maelstrom (and I’m not sure why realising she is a ‘she’ somehow makes this release more enjoyably and shamelessly decadent, but it does). The new polished sound and irrepressible melodies have the added effect of leaving this two man crew sounding like an army.
That said, there’s also a commendable effort on this Swiss duo’s part not to sweeten this sumptuous meal and make it too saccharine and bloated. Four tracks in and the thundering Entelechie could well have been the point where things began to flag – and bear in mind this is the band’s second album and third release in just over a year – but instead we’re treated to a heads down tremolo-fest that cements the band’s signature sound. So much so it’s a bit of a shock when the eerie celestial choir sample hits on the next and final track – as if the band has resisted going for such low-hanging fruit – more keen instead to allow the music, keyboard backed though it is, to do the work.
Personally, there have probably been times when I’ve been more into this ethereal, tremolo-led melodic black metal sound. But I have to say this definitely left more than a passing impression. The 34 minutes or so probably adds to the sense that En Ergô Einai is a short, sharp shock with an extended first track that then seems to time-slip rapidly through each track towards the end. It leaves this feeling like an extended EP but at the same time brave, or perhaps wise, to keep this relatively brief rather than letting ideas run amok. Plenty of time for that down the line while the world gets used to this.
Difficult to pin this to others but perhaps just to say Aara sounds like Mare Cognitum played at double speed and with lashings of extra orchestral swing and with the melodic charm of someone like Wallachia. But Aara seems to have resisted the temptation to go too far down the road towards that twiddling, sprawling, cosmic black metal sound – already a scene heavily populated. Exquisite and exuberant, En Ergô Einai will find fans across the black metal scene and elsewhere. It will feel like a dream to some. And, if Aara can stick to this level of intensity, I’ll wager the band will continue on its present trajectory and go far.
(8.5/10 Reverend Darkstanley)