29 May 2021 - Thorsten
Avantgarde-Black-Metal | Onism Productions | Release date: 07 May 2021
Sometimes you see a record and you know it - that will be good. Because it reminds you of something. With Grey Aura’s newest record the cover-comparison is clear: The Mars Volta’s The Bedlam In Goliath has just the same colors, and man!, Zwart Vierkant is just as versatile and virtuous as the salsa-core from New Mexico!
And when you think, that this might be a comparison too big for any band, you are probably right, even if the comparison might be too big because of the different genres. The Mars Volta was always rooted in equal measures of Krautrock, Free-Jazz and Salsa, while the cornerstones of Grey Aura are surely more Doom, Jazz, Folklore and loads of good Black Metal. Whether the “rest” of the comparison holds up, has to be seen.
Zwart Vierkant opens with ”Maria Segovia”, a wonderful example of pastiche – taking parts and snippets from songs, erasing the connections and creating blank spaces within the whirlwind that is about to start. The song is supported by well-done synths that wouldn’t seem out of place in a lot of modern popular songs and by some horns – it’s like an 80s Jazz-Noir record fallen on top of a Black-Metal-opener. Then they cut of the guitar parts and leave the Black-Metal-feeling to the drums that gallop throughout the whole song. Whenever Ruben Wijlacker raises his voice the guitar kick in again and the tornadoes are back. The vocals are changing between despaired mutterings and growls of anxiety. The track goes through a lot of transitions with the drums using the cymbals very poignantly otherwise focusing on the toms and snares but never sounding like pure Black-Metal but always like a Jazz-version of a Black-Metal-song. With the help of a perfectly blended, quite industrial bass guitar the rhythm section is a sheer miracle. Close to six minutes of sheer virtuousness, that finds its peak in the quite Flamenco-ish guitar pickings just before the end. And that, dear reader was just the first track!
When talking about Grey Aura however, you also must mention the fact that this is a concept album backing a novel written by Ruben about a painter who falls in love with Suprematism, a Russian art movement of the first half of the 20th century which denied any realist and also surrealist ideas of art and which focused on very geometrical forms and shapes thus certain proximity to the German Bauhaus-movement, with one of the major Suprematists even publishing in Bauhaus-magazines. Kazimir Malevich even found his way into the lyrics of German industrial pioneers Einsturzende Neubauten. The protagonist of Grey Aura’s story travels through Europe trying to find out as much as possible about that new art form and therefore each song represents a different stage of his bodily and mental journey. For anyone who wants to know more about the story, on the band’s website is a good translation of the lyrics for all those people who do not understand Ruben’s Dutch vocals.
Not enough lyrical complexity, the songs also share some kind of musical connection to the corresponding theme, for example when ”Paris Is Een Portaal” displays a very jazzy side similar to French Jazz of the 40s or 50s. ”El Greco In Toledo” on the other side plays with percussive elements typical for Spain like the castanets and also features some intriguing, seductive Spanish vocal samples.
That the trio also had famous contributors from bands like Fluisteraars, Nusquama, Terzij de Horde and even the bass player from Laster and Nusquama only shows how well-beloved they are in the scene. Grey Aura are from Holland and they have a lot of connections in the Dutch scene – and all of those shine on Zwart Vierkant!
There seems to be not a single flaw in this record so let’s get back to our comparison from the beginning: Of course, Grey Aura is not a new (Black-Metal) version of The Mars Volta. Nevertheless, in some way, the open attitude leaning towards music without boundaries is the very same. Grey Aura do not care for conventions, just like any good forward-thinking band should! A must-buy for any fan of progressive Black-Metal!