Death Metal: one of extreme metal’s most storied subgenres with many different tales of how it began and who supposedly created the “death metal sound.” According to everyone’s favorite metal archive, the Encyclopedia Metallum, at the time of writing this review, there are over 38,000 bands listed as being somehow part of or featuring influence from the death metal genre in this world. Clearly, the exact distinction of what defines music as “death metal” has changed over the course of the genre’s history, whether it be because of the passage of time, bands forming in the varying locales of the world with influences unique to their country of origin, or other more obscure processes at work.
For Auroch, death metal seems to be more of a necessary evil rather than a need for “belonging” to the degree that other bands may be looking for a specific genre or niche to fit into. Vocalist/guitarist Sebastian Montesi and vocalist/bassist Shawn Haché are also known for their work in Mitochondrion, in which they actually switch instrumental roles. With their drummer Zack Chandler, they show that the concept of a “power trio” can very much have a place in death metal. The sheer ferocity in this music, when mixed with its distinct musical chemistry and haunting atmosphere, grips its audience intensely within the first thirty seconds of “Billowing Vervain.”
To add to these qualities, on “Say Nothing” we are taken aback by vocals that sound akin to that of a Gregorian chant, layering additional ominous feelings into an already dark record. I’m immediately reminded of the early days of my death-metal as a thirteen-year-old, listening to Behemoth and Cannibal Corpse and, even later on, finally discovering Gorguts—bands that show death metal has some very technically proficient musicians within a genre that often gets typified as only needing blast beats, growling vocals, and album covers that have blood-splattered zombies.
With the physical release of Mute Books having just past us on the 21st of October, I’d like to make special mention of the continued work by Mexican artist Antithesis Ignis (more commonly known by his studio name of Cold Poison Design), who also contributed the art for the 2014 LP Taman Shud as well as the 2015 split with Mitochondrion, entitled In Cronian Hour. Each format that the record is being released in will have specific aspects or features shown in the design, therefore making it an all the more valuable experience to see and touch.
For those who make a point to notice specific aspects of the production quality, the rather distant yet powerful sound of the snare drum on the fifth track, “The Keeping,” is of particular note. It gives off an aesthetic associated with older recording quality, but it doesn’t at all come across as a modern band trying to make their record sound dated simply for the sake of vintage appeal. If anything, because that sound is only during the beginning and the rest of the song is made of fairly mid-tempo drumming as well as occasional blasts, it makes the beginning section of the song stand on its own.
In the time of thirty minutes, Auroch takes you on a dark journey that I personally haven’t encountered anything similar to in years. If you consider yourself someone who knows about death metal and you haven’t yet heard any of Auroch’s music, I have no idea what you’re waiting for, but Mute Books is a great place to dive in. After the closing track, “Cup of Hemlock”, though, you may not make it back out.
01) Billowing Vervain
02) He Wreaths the Cross
03) Say Nothing
05) The Keeping
06) Her Bidding
07) Cup of Hemlock