Album: Triade I: Eos
Release Date: 26 March 2021
Genre: Atmospheric Black Metal/Melodic Black Metal
Label: Debemur Morti Productions
Fluss – Vocals/Lyrics
Berg – Guitars/Bass/Composition
Black metal is a genre that never gets boring. I know, that might seem like a bit of a bold proclamation there. Though, in my own personal experience, there has never, ever been another genre of metal that has had me spend hours on many a music streaming platform in a day hunting for more bands and albums to add to my daily music rotation. Not to mention the fact that its flexibility and versatility to be incorporated into just about every other genre of extreme metal in order to give whatever it’s being combined with either a more atmospheric or evil sound, is testament to that statement and will be one that I will forever standby.
Since a few years back, I have listened to everything from the more popular and accessible bands like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, and Carach Angren all the way to the OG bands like Darkthrone, Emperor, and Bathory. However, out of all the styles of black metal out there, including subgenres like blackened deathcore that only incorporate some of the genres elements in the music, atmospheric black metal seemed to be the style I gravitated the most towards starting with bands like Summoning, Lustre, and Eldamar through to the scores of bands that have become regulars in my daily playlists. Though, in early 2020, during the height of the COVID lockdowns, absolutely nothing could have prepared me for the absolute genius, wonder, and spectacle that is Switzerland’s, Aara. This is the band’s third full length album and follows on from their previous two releases, 2019s So Fallen Alle Tempel and 2020s En Ergô Einai.
Triode I; Eos is the first record in a trilogy of albums that the band will be releasing during the next few years which tells the story of Melmoth The Wanderer, which is based on the 1820 Gothic novel of the same name written by Irish playwright, novelist, and clergyman Charles Maturin. The novel covers many themes including religion, the occult, atheism, and the supernatural. It was even praised by the legendary H.P. Lovecraft as “an enormous stride in the evolution of the horror-tale” and you know when your boy Lovecraft speaks highly of something, you know it’s worth checking out. To give a basic synopsis, the plot revolves around a mysterious figure named Melmoth who made a pact with the devil for immortality and has wandered the earth for 150 years. He appears to many different characters in three seemingly separate, yet, interconnected stories in an attempt to coax these individuals into damning their souls so that his immortality can be extended.
Normally when I review an album, I tend to break it down track by track. However, due to the nature of this genre, I want to avoid sounding repetitive so instead I will be discussing the album and the music a whole as I feel it is the only way a genre like this can be analyzed.
Aara’s soundscape is one of picturesque, cinematic quality that somehow manages to combine a contrasting, yet, complimentary atmosphere that really sets them apart and makes them stand out from most bands in the genre. For starters, the instrumentals create a feeling of faint warmth in their tone and composition while the high, screeching vocals create this icy, chilling, and supernatural tinge that prevents their music from sounding ‘happy’ as some black metal fans might call it. The best way I can describe Aara’s overall sound is, if converted into a rather simplistic visual image, would have to be like that if you were sitting in a study of antique quality, pouring over ancient tomes and texts in front of a small, glowing fireplace during the last days of autumn where it is still warm but the chill of winter approaches. Then, as the light of day changes with that end of autumn glow from the suns rays as time passes from dawn to dusk, the high screeching vocals would be like the odd chilly breeze that enters through an open window at regular intervals with the synths creating the atmospheres of the ancient city outside.
Musically speaking, what really makes this album unique is its incredible ability to retain the core elements of what makes up black metals spiritual essence while choosing to instead lean on a lot of major scale notes for melodies as opposed to the traditional minor keys and tritones commonly found in most metal genres. However, unlike bands in say, the blackgaze/post-black metal scene like Corps Fleur, Deafheaven, or Møl, who use the major scale to create epic choruses and build ups, Aara instead takes heavy inspiration from classical music in the Baroque and Romantic eras, molds it, and makes it more palettable for the modern listener all the while using it as a consistent element in every riff, melody, and note that is constructed.
In atmospheric black metal, it is pretty difficult to create that sense of mood and ambience without the use of synths. While the production and mixing of black metal on its own can be atmospheric, if done right, a lot of bands who label themselves as atmospheric black metal might get the synths right, but, the mixing and tone of their guitars and drums certainly leave a lot to be desired by someone looking to be immersed in music that should, by it’s nature, have a cinematic or meditative quality. For this record, Aara have created a very rich tone that, on it’s own, along with the classically inspired melodies, creates a perfect balance between modern, hi-fi production quality and the raw, harsh distortion that was perfected by bands like Darkthrone or Emperor back in the day. The drums have a very natural sound despite not being recorded in the way early black metal albums were recorded and they create a wonderful ebb and flow dynamic that compliments the guitar work superbly. There are also plenty of elements that reminded me of the Polish and Czechoslavkian black metal sound with bands like Batushka, Cult Of Fire, and Mgla coming to mind.
The synth work on this record is by far the crowning achievement. Normally when synths are used in atmospheric black metal, they tend to draw attention away from the guitars and drums and often are the element that carries the music. They also tend to lean on either a dungeon synth inspired sound or borrow a lot of new age elements. This is not the case here. Instead, Aara, like on previous records, choose to have the synths play a more subdued and rather subtle role by only having them sprinkled into the music where it is appropriate to do so, often leading to some of the most memorable and truly captivating parts of the music. Everything from traditional church choirs to Gregorian chant can be found in the synths along with some wonderful interludes of the ocean and the sounds of monks praying in a monastry. Never before have keyboard synths been able to create such an ethereal, meditative, and tranquil mood, the quality of which, by it’s gentle nature, feels like silk to your ears over the controlled chaos of the guitar and drum work. Another clever way, if you have a good ear or are listening on a good set of headphones, is how some of the Gregorian chant synths that are mixed at a very low volume, are actually used to back the main melody of many of the riffs giving the drums and the bass guitar a unique and profuse quality to the soundscape that is crafted.
Finally, I would like to discuss the vocals. When it comes to black metal, I personally don’t mind growls or highs, but, I am of the preference of high pitched screams which, as far the modern scene is concerned, is becoming somewhat of a lost art and very few bands have vocalists even capable of hitting such ranges. However, Fluss simply has some of the most crisp, piercing, intense, anguished, and captivating high screams I have ever heard recently from this genre. Her vocals made me think of Dani Filth’s vocals in the early days of Cradle Of Filth along with the more high pitched shrieking tones of Devin Duarte, the vocalist of blackened deathcore band, Worm Shepherd.
Fluss is exceptionally talented and the way that her vocals are mixed with the music only adds to that rich and immersive atmosphere that I described earlier. At times I was also reminded at times of Helge Stang, the original vocalist of Equilibrium and current vocalist of Wolves Den, and how his high screams just seemed to enhance all the epic moments from the Sagas and Turis Fratyr albums. To cap it all off, the way in which Fluss vocals are mixed on this album only adds to that chilling sensation one should feel when hearing them and I hope that she continues with this kind of outstanding performance as their career goes on.
All these elements come together to create a highly meditative, ambient, and immersive musical journey that transports your mind away to a completely different world. Aara accomplish this feat so well that you don’t even notice that you are listening to a full album and the running time seems to end almost as suddenly as it began despite being slightly over 45 minutes in length. There is not a single dull or boring moment on this record and it requires a crazy amount of talent and skill to write atmospheric music that does not get boring in it’s repitition or scarce use of melody changes. This album is one that is highly focused and delivers on everything it set out to do and, from a musical standpoint, is very fitting for the story of Melmoth The Wanderer.
Triade I: Eos is a very ambitious record that is made out of a love and passion for one of the most influential works of gothic horror literature ever written. It does not falter or pause in it’s mission to deliver such a haunting, bleak, yet gorgeously neo-classical inspired and melodic soundscape that will linger on in the mind long after the final track has ended. Layered with brilliant guitar work, relentless drumwork, ear splitting vocals, and ethereal synths, Aara are sure to satisfy your every need with this album.
I do look forward to the second and third albums in this trilogy of Melmoth The Wanderer I am very excited to see how they will build on from what they have crafted here on this release. I am also happy to say that, just like with their past two releases, I left from listening to this record with a sense of satisfaction knowing that every minute of my time was well spent experiencing this incredible work of art. I now cannot even go to bed at night or get through my work day without giving it at least another full listen. Aara are definitely one of, if not the best, new bands in the modern black metal scene and if you have yet to experience what they have to offer, I strongly suggest that you don’t sleep on these guys. If you are looking for something fresh, unique, and different from what you are used to hearing in black metal, go and listen to Triade I: Eos today!
Reviewed By: Russell Gainsford