Ara“Ooooh, that rumble” were the very words uttered from my mouth upon laying the threatening looking disc into the CD track and hitting play. This self-released debut from Wisconsin’s Ara is certainly one to grab the attention from the off, pulling together the deep mirk of Portal, the jarring rhythms of Neuraxis, the quirky melodies of Anata and the strangulated riffage of Gorguts into a bass-heavy maelstrom of… err… heavy.

For those who like their death metal to sound as much as possible like a twisted cyber-beast, mechanically enhanced yet still breathing, heaving and lumbering from the very deepest pits – Ara could very well be your bag. Rather that following the overtly technical, guitar wankery infused style of tech-death, the main influence I get throughout this album is very much Gorguts. The uber-bassy trachea punching riffs swirl and quake their pounding disharmony in regular streams of ever shifting jazzy timescales, and I can’t get enough of them at the moment. Anata-styled wandering harmonies scatter like spiders over the bassy rhythm section, flickering and sharply incising themselves into your brain matter after minimal repeat plays.

One of the standout reasons this album works so well for me is the top notch Colin Marston production job. It gives the music an organic edge, whilst not allowing it to be overly polished and clinical. It’s incredibly bristly, schizophrenic and packed full of riffs, and delivers exactly what you want when you want it. Importantly, it’s very much noticeable that there are actual ‘songs’ on offer here, rather than a collection of riffs tacked together. Some albums just seem to be a pissing contest of who can play the fastest/most technical crazed rhythms, but not this one. From the guttural bursts of vocals, the technical drum work and the ever present bass work which buzzes inexorably behind the smog-choking guitars, it all ties together seamlessly into a thoroughly listenable whole.

I’m sure it won’t be long before a decent label snaps these guys up as clearly they have their sound down pat, and can blast and churn with the best of them. Dark, agitated and threatening, Ara’s debut is a must for fans of any of the aforementioned bands, and judging by the performance they put on here, they certainly deserve to be heard by a wider audience.

(8.5/10 Lars Christiansen)