O’ Canada, who are you really? Are you a dualistic nation, because of your anglo/franco roots? The colonial settlers whose languages and cultures would permeate the land, intertwining two disparate homelands into one? Are you a romancing of the classic era, or are you an eclectic mix of all nations of the people your borders bear, in these postmodern times? These questions come to mind after exposure to Waterloo prog quartet Auras’ third full album Heliospectrum. The album leans heavily on a foundation of drone and groove, paralleling the rigid properness of the British and the French penchant for the sensual. As the album builds, Auras branches into more and more styles, with hints of speed, djent and Gothenburg metals, invoking the many identities of this band’s diverse home nation.
Alright, enough with the pretentiousness, time with the dirty details. Heliospectrum is a great technical progressive metal album. Auras builds walls of sound during the verses, but instead of a climactic crash common in post metal inspired music, they are replaced with groovy interludes, highly technical speed lines or dueling guitar solos. By removing the slow builds associated with this sound with unrelenting power, the track lengths become much more accessible with a more instant payoff for the ear.
Tracks like “Waterstone” take a drone guitar rhythm and layer wailing guitar solos, and technical drums before seamlessly breaking into a more djent oriented lead with synthesizers and ambient samples creating a controlled chaos and frenzy before smashing everything together into a beautiful cacophony.
For a showcase of speed see “Eloquence” as the song starts at a breakneck pace, then slowly diverges into a melodic death metal track a la In Flames. “Eloquence” bleeds directly into “Stars” featuring an off time rhythm, some clean vocals and a sneaky guitar loop that all coalesce in the final leg of the track.
The cleanness of “Stars” is directly opposed with the frantic and bipolar “Dream Elixir”, with its ultra low bass tones and frenzied guitar rhythms, that quickly become warm and soar into the sky before losing themselves again in the torrent below.
The album ends with “Solar Pulse”. The track begines with a minimalist guitar line that becomes omnipresent throughout the 6:31 run time. Despite the track getting heavier and more aggressive, this initial guitar sound soldiers on, barely audible behind the growing noise, until it is all the remains.
Heliospectrum is a highly diverse and technical progressive metal album. With a heavy emphasis on genre blending and intricate sound building, Auras have produced an album of the highest quality. This album can be daunting, but sticking with it is rewarding. This ten track epic twists and turns with reckless abandon, and will leave you exhausted but satisfied with the experience.
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“Dream Elixir” Official Video: