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venerdì 8 febbraio 2019

AERA - The Craving Within

#FOR FANS OF: Epic Black, Gorgoroth
Elaborating on its ambition with another drab album cover, AERA pans out from the flush foliage that made up a shroud of dark trees across nearly half of the black-contrasting-grey sky in order to reveal desolation as larger cloud formations impose themselves on shrinking bits of blackened earth. At first glance this enshadowed area is burned and gnarled, as though devastated by conflagration. However, this expanse of sky spans over the rolling hills and mists settle the gullies between. AERA has taken a step back to catch more light in its lens and now shows that even clearer in its latest offering.

With this clarity in an album cover comes a clarity in AERA's direction as well. Twisted and disturbing harmony expresses desolation through biting winds as “Skaldens Død” explodes with percussion sweeping up the treble as synth and screams become the second envelopment of a pincer on the razor sharp foreground. Crying frosty riffing swamps the atmosphere in “Frost Within” with a sound that could easily be accompanied by piano however it instead takes its tearing tone well into “Rite of Odin” keeping a flow together that reaches apogee and then succumbs to silence. While fury is the sound of the day in the first half of the album, ensuring that AERA's uncompromising black metal effect is just as palpable as it was in 'Of Forsworn Vows', the duo has now taken its time in a full-length to show a greater breadth in its music through the latter half that opens up the expanse to some color in this generally drab and flat presentation.

Establishing a new flow with a gruff chant, “Profetien” bears some martial characteristics similar to Gorgoroth's pummeling “Profetens Åpenbaring” before its march becomes blasted away with the airy shrieks and hammering blasting that fills its ethereal atmosphere with hints of Njiqadhha's relentless layering. Breaking into a quiet and somber chant to an acoustic guitar, the song turns from grief to vengeance as it resumes it marching pace. Slightly branching out with a new approach, “Profetien” shows that AERA is capable of creating a second movement within a song that thoroughly switches gears to bring more than one flat emotion to the forefront. Rage becomes supplanted with melancholy for a small sparkling interlude before Satyricon sawing comes through again to remind the listener of just how immersed into its space AERA remains, coming off again as bland and recycled rather than overwhelming, brutal, or evil. Just because the guitar is obnoxiously shrill in the mix, it doesn't make the music match up, especially considering this guitar still doesn't rise to the occasion of the shrillness of a Burzum or Demonaz album. Instead, this production ensures that its hazy sound is as flat as its delivery and the lacking bass end is just audible enough but still not very impactful. The only memorable things about “Profetien” are the pagan chanting at the beginning and the clarity of that almost Agalloch movement, the balls out black metal is boring with uninspired Satyricon scraps passionlessly and predictably performed, employed in strong formula but giving little reason for its application.

Luckily, an astute example of beautality comes in the vicious opening riff to “Join Me Tomorrow” before becoming a scramble of synth, searing cymbals, and shrieks climbing to an apogee of tension and harmony in its timbres to explore cavernous echo as well as a majestic landscape. Vocals as fierce and airy as Njiqadhha's, and an overall pace that shows some dynamism in AERA's approach rather than stagnates and stands in place makes this song hit much better than the samey opening songs while also providing a bit of commercial appeal to an album entranced with its esoteric ritual. The solo in “Join Me Tomorrow” comes through well erupting from the grain and the “wishing and hoping” screaming through the blast beating and wailing guitars calls to a bit of Gaahl era Gorgoroth while also calling to the album's title and elaborating on 'The Craving Within'. Though this song could be a great closer to the album, the zeal of “Norrøn Magi” keeps the album to a more folksy standard and ensures that the ethereal rise behind the fury reeks of Lustre and Alcest becoming beautality as it brings forth harmonious melody from the guitars, making them look to light and begin to stray from the searing tumult of darkness in tremolo ecstasy.

In a heartwarming turn of step, AERA has discovered an anthemic reach within the brutality of its very Satyricon inspired music. Reaching a new precipice in this combination of delicate melody accentuating its all-too-overt approach that has grown into flatness and insipidity has ensured an album balanced enough between its intense edge and its accessible accouterments to bring a meaningful menagerie of metal moments while enduring 'The Craving Within', a deep desire for some sort of inspiration that would make for a band actually worth an audience's time.

AERA knocked this album out of the park in a lot of ways. This is an album that is very bottom heavy in that its end tracks show off more personality and variety than the intense and atonally focused beginning, but that turn from the epic atmosphere and samey Satyricon tearing in “Skaldens Død” and “Frost Within” to the mid-paced and more anthemic sounds of “Profiten” and “Norrøn Magi” makes the album much more listenable and entertaining.

Still, AERA is nearly as dull as its album covers and though the band attempts a few bits of nuance in pagan chanting, clean interludes, a beautiful use of synth as it rises with the guitar in “Join Me Tomorrow”, and finally hits the right notes on “Norrøn Magi”, the finer points of the album are too little too late. The eternity of the first three tracks of near nothingness, the endless repetition of a basic and banal chord progression that was already cemented in 'Pure Holocaust' make for an album as derivative and repetitive as it is uninspired and annoying. AERA needs to become its own band because 'The Craving Within' is just so uncreative that it shows just how much of a hole black metal has dug for itself as all panache and flash is lost to stoically standing still holding a candelabra and pretending you're epic.

In spite of its fury early on and the anthemic turn toward the end of the album, 'The Craving Within' doesn't really ignite much of a passion resulting in an album that leaves as much an empty space as it joins the long list of bland bands that can tie a small interesting knot into another basic noose. (Five_Nails)