Son of Aurelius – The Farthest Reaches

Now this is a fucking metal album. 2010 hasn’t had the easiest time getting out of the gate, with last years cream of the crop already pluming into straight-up classics; but honestly, no comparison to 2009, the year of the hardcore music fan, this year has been pretty good. Daughters released their final album, which just so happens to be a great one, Dangers have possibly made a hardcore opus, Sigh continue to make the label “Symphonic Metal” obsolete for anyone that are not themselves Sigh, and even the little known Wrath and Rapture have released a pretty good debut with the best metal cover (this time it’s “Cold” by At the Gates) I’ve heard in years. And now we have Son of Aurelius releasing their debut album, a pure epic full of genius moments and technical aneurysms.

Although first things first, look at that cover. Look at those colors, the action, the various characters and emotions. Now that I think about it, doesn’t the chick in the bottom right-hand corner kind of look like that one brunette from Heavy Metal that was getting told all the stories before she turned into a Valkyrie and flashed her tits? That movie was pretty badass (and bad, but I digress). Anyways, take this cover and just treasure the business of it, because for every time I see a black or darkly colored, generic death-oriented metal album cover, I chalk up another mark for the haters that call metal…well, generic and obsessed with death. This, Fortress by Protest the Hero two years back, and Deflorate by the Black Dahlia Murder make three times that I have listened to an album simply because of the cover, and thank god I did.

Son of Aurelius do nothing new to metal or do anything out of the ordinary as far as death metal or prog-death goes, it’s just that they do it so well. This sounds like their third or fourth album, the one where all the elements come into play to make that special syrupy sauce, and yet it’s a bunch of young dudes’ first attempt. The biggest difference between these guys and other contemporary acts however is one of influences; as we go on, we see that most new metal bands that appear have more contemporary influences, and to put it nicely, they suck ass through a straw. These guys look back most obviously to At the Gates and Death, the harbingers of Death Metal, with some Pestilence and Necrophagist thrown in for good measure. If you listen really closely, you could almost hear Cynic’s Focus, but that’s a bit of a stretch.

This laundry list of Death Metal icons give the album a very nice sheen to it, making an album that’s been out for a month sound like one that’s been out for years; it feels classic. Things kick off with an immediate blast beat that basically serves to kick you right in the face. Not since tech-metal companions Arsis’s A Celebration of Guilt have I heard such immediacy in a metal release. Rather than build it up like, say, Slaughter of the Soul, they kick it off with a showcase of possibly the most impressive drummer I’ve heard in a while. Seriously, Spencer Edwards makes even the great Brann Dailor look lazy. Trigger-free, he makes bass kick triplets stack on top of each other to form an almost constant assault of machine gun blasts that chug the song along like some sort of great mammoth stampede.

Guitarists Chase Fraser (formerly of Animosity) and Cary Gear spare no moment to cut out a delicious prog-riff that would fit right in on a Black Dahlia Murder release and vocalist Josh Miller tries his damndest to not fall behind the giant that is Spencer Edwards, and he succeeds with a voice that has actual scream range, being able to pull off highs screeches and low, guttural howls that are impressive in their own right (but still iffy compared to tested vocalists like Trevor Strnad). Even bassist Max Zigman contributes heavily, not to Obscura-esque proportions, but definitely channeling Necrophagist and Pestilence on occassion. Even a Cliff Burton-like smacking is heard on tracks like “Pandora’s Burden”.

Ultimately, these are a bunch of young dudes playing a mix of modern and classic death metal that succeeds due to a great sense of familiarity and technical know-how that doesn’t sound tacked-on. Math doesn’t do the overall “smoothness” of the album justice, with many interludes sounding like an Intronaut B-side (that’s not an insult). These guys play what they know, and they know it well, well-enough to hook Alan Douches, producer of Mastodon and Cannibal Corpse, in. The whole affair sound great, with a democratic mix that doesn’t abandon the bass or bury the vocals. Every element of the album is tried-and-true, tested, and ventured territory, but when it sounds this damn good, it’s hard to ignore.

Score: B

by Trevor “Son of Aegir” Johnson

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