30 Mar 2023 - Martin
Melodic | Black Metal | Debemur Morti Productions | Release date: 31 Mar 2023 | Favorite song: Emphase der Seelenpein
A small creek, when it swells with rain and snow and rushes down from the heights, it becomes a stream - a raging mountain stream. As we know, even though nature is beautiful and nurtures your soul and body, it is also wild and merciless. A duality of opposites in its essence. No equilibrium or friction, no change or evolution. There would be nothing without this duality. - Therefor the beautiful and relentless scenery in front of you just is. Here the majestic mountain with his wall of sound and there the anguished river rushing down and carrying you away to somewhere else. We have no choice, but to surrender to these elements. And how could it be any other way.
Here, in the Swiss band AARA, Berg (”Mountain”, composer and multi-instrumentalist) and Fluss (”River”, singer and lyricist) join forces and together with J. on drums they have already released four full-length albums since their inception in 2019. A relentless pace in itself. And now the band (its name derived from the Swiss river Aare as also from the Latin word for altar: Ara; together freely translated as ”Altar of Nature”) offer us their fifth full-length album named Triade III: Nyx. It is the end of a trilogy and a highpoint in their discography of rapturous and highly melodic Black Metal.
Already known for their unstoppable momentum, swarming neoclassic leads, economic use of textures (choirs, keys et al.) and high register bone-freezing screech, they further expand their palette on Triade III: Nyx with even more mature melodies, that captivate us due to greater clarity and dynamics between and within the individual songs. Additionally the sound is more varied than before e.g. also guitar riffs in the lower register, even reminiscent of Post-Metal. They slow down the chaos to give melodies and riffs more room. Opposites emerge from the chaos. And the reason for this belies in the ambiguity of life and nature itself. Why? We have arrived at the calm but ”eerie” night (”Nyx”, given name for the greek goddess and embodiement of night), the concluding part of AARA´s tripartite interpretation of 19th Century Gothic novel ”Melmoth The Wanderer” (1820) by Irish writer Charles Robert Maturin. The last section of his book. Melmoth´s irrevocable end.
Being heralded as the best Horror story in English from the time of the black romanticism, it tackles abysses, longings and aspects of different religions. How a thirst for life, in itself a good thing, fatally leads to death and despair, through a destructive path of passion turning to obsession, to greed, madness and finally tragedy. Influenced by Johann Wolfgang von Goethes classic novel ”Faust”, released a decade before, it has also a faustian pact at its core (similarly adapted thereafter e.g. in Bram Stoker´s Dracula, the modern horror movie ”It Follows” or Maturin´s great nephew Oscar Wilde and his novel ” The Picture of Dorian Gray”, published 70 years later).
Melmoth is a scholar, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for 150 extra years of life to still his thirst for knowledge and understanding. Therafter he searches the world for someone who will take over the pact for him. Someone pure, a good soul he can taint, as well as those who have suffered great misfortune, in order to tempt them to join him in eternal damnation in exchange for freedom and an end to the sufferings that society casts upon them. Melmoth is both, the tempted and the tempter, the ego and the id, Faust and Mephistopheles. These contradictions make him a even more realistic entity.
So is the music of AARA. Its like a combination of the most diverse opposites in one person and thus their music becomes a representation of the ambiguity of life itself. The songs have a constant change of emotions. A melody can build up joyfully and hopefully and break into coldness and sadness in the next second.
This is directly noticeable in the first song ”Heimgesucht” (”Haunted”), where we are introduced into the world of the novel/album with the sound of a horse carriage riding along a plastered path. Slowly melodic guitars take over and the song builds up step-by-step until everything erupts into a maelstrom of blastbeats, singing guitars and a damn fine groove. But even though there is this lightning fast flood of blackened sound, it is contrasted with restrain and it ”breathes”. There are different soundscapes during the ebb and flow of the song, not only wall of sound front to back. Second track and personal highlight ”Emphase der Seelenpein” (”Emphasis on the torment of the soul”) follows this with a mysterious and sinister atmosphere at the beginning. In-between elevated by melancholic, playful and even majestic moments. Sometimes euphoric and jubilant, but at times also sprinkled with doubt and regret. ”Moribunda” (Spanish for ”Dying”) adds further variety in texture with haunting female voices singing in the background. Fittingly this song deals with Melmoth´s lover dying of grief after having a stillborn during her imprisonment at the time of the Spanish inquisition. Next track ”Unstern ” (”Ominous star”) has even more vocal diversity: ghostly choirs, spoken word and singer Fluss dragging us to hell.
Moving through the last stages of our anti-hero´s odissey towards that what makes all things equal, we share Melmoth´s dream of his own damnation. In ”Des Wanderers Traum” (”The Wanderer´s dream”) we experience with him ”hell as an endless sea of fire”. The guitar melodies are more anguished in feeling, because Melmoth´s extended life is almost over. Ghost voices in the background illustrate the salvation of the people that didn´t succumb to his offering though suffering terrible fates. Guitars fading out, we set into the final track ”Edo et Edam” (”Eat and be eaten”). The clock of life ticking and coming to a halt at last, after some infectious drum work and an solemn end.
This album is the raging river, it grasps your attention right away, picks you up, sweeps you away and after listening, you will find yourself somewhere else. On one side there is duality, opposites, ambiguity, good and bad, passion and obsession. Nature. On the other side the search for a reason, for understanding and the quest of transformation. Humanity.
There is no absolute truth, but if, it would most probably be somewhere in the golden mean. An equilibrium, where humanity is in balance and acceptance with its own nature and the nature around it. We may realize this, but really understanding and living by it, is a whole different story. Everybody has to tackle his own oddisey. In the age of enlightenment very much so, but look around, also in this time and age e.g. with the ever-increasing polarization of societies and us stuck to our mobile phones living only in our chosen peer group bubbles. Maybe this polarization is the friction needed for change to come or we just share Melmoth´s fate all together.
If you want to, Triade III: Nyx offers this kind of deep-level background to dig in. Otherwise its just an very engaging Melodic Black Metal album. But dive into its wild currents anyway!