Monday, May 23, 2011

Nox Aurea - Ascending In Triumph (2010)

With their recent signing to Napalm Records, Sweden's Nox Aurea have positioned themselves to be a force in their genre. With a sound that will certainly appeal to fans of Draconian, Swallow The Sun, Barren Earth and Helevorn, they take the tools of the trade, and put them to good use. This isn't your grandmother's same old doom. Then again, if your grandmother listens to doom, I certainly wouldn't argue with her.

From the first note, you are treading in familiar waters. The first and title track, "Ascending In Triumph," begins with that deep, booming kick drum that has become a signature of the death/doom genre. Guitars and drums are slow and deliberate at the onset, hitting their stride with a well placed section of chugging and double kicks. Vocally, the band diverge from the norm, with growls that touch on, but don't always sink into, the low register.

A soft layer of strings carries you into "The Loss And Endeavour Of Divinity." The first earth shattering growl shakes the track, and the sets the pace. But fear not, things are about to take a turn for the heavy. A violent attack of drums and guitars catches you off guard, paired with a glorious female vocal passage. A wonderful contrast is formed, setting off a flurry of activity from all sides. "The Shadowless Plains" provides a headbanging experience you won't soon forget. Those double kicks keep coming, sometimes at speeds that rival the guitar work. The only reprieve is a short interlude of soft, angelic vocals. Otherwise, you are treated to a full speed ahead slaughter. The growls gain strength, and may elicit a chill.

Don't let the string and acoustic guitar intro to "Mother Aletheia: Chapter II" fool you. The peacefulness is short lived. The booming kicks return to put this one in gear. A particularly aggressive midsection finds guitars, drums and bass crashing down at every available moment. A woman's voice chimes in, slowing the track. Guitars begin to crunch. Drums continue to crash. Yet somehow in the midst of this, there is still a melody to be had. "The Delight Of Autumn Passion" could be mistaken for a Draconian song, combining all of the familiar elements of the genre into a track that is unrelenting in its assault. Even with a female singer layering vocals on top of it all, the track never ceases to punish you.

The dark, violin tinged "My Voyage Through Galactic Aeons" features a kick drum barrage that would be right at home on a speed metal album, while "To The Grave I Belong" is a thunderous collaboration of all things heard thus far. The surprise of the album comes at it's climax, with the piano instrumental "Emendare." A beautiful piece, soft and delicate, tying things up in the proverbial bow. It serves as the perfect ending to a bloody journey.

Much like other bands that fall under this umbrella we continue to refer to as "death/doom," Nox Aurea continue to take the formulaic style and tweak it slightly. It speaks to the genre as a whole, and the ability of these bands to take the basic instruments and get them in sync with each other, forming something larger than any of the parts. No gimmicks. Straightforward and powerful in simplicity.


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