The world tilts on its axis. Life is full of fears and suspicions. We all need solace and catharsis. And while Aura Noir would likely cleave me in two for suggesting it (although stabbing me in the neck with broken beer bottles seems more probable) there’s something decidedly comforting about the Norwegian blackened thrash trio. The band’s last full-length, ’08’s Hades Rise, was their most celebrated release so far, drawing much acclaim from critics and underground metal fans alike. It’s been a long wait for the follow-up, but the pummeling feedback squall of “Trenches”, the opening track on their fifth full-length Out To Die,**is a deliciously cruel reminder that Aura Noir are back; pugnacious as ever, and offering up some thoroughly wicked succor.
For almost two decades Aura Noir have been releasing consistently filthy metal. Tainted with the unmistakable odor of Celtic Frost, Sodom, and Venom, Aura Noir have stripped metal down to two of its more visceral components: black metal, for its iconoclastic clout, and Teutonic thrash, for its steadfast aggressiveness. *Out to Die, *like their previous work, is a terse onslaught of primeval metal. The band comprises guitarist and vocalist Aggressor; drummer, bassist and vocalist Apollyon; and guitarist Blasphemer (back in the fold fulltime). Fierce and welcomingly impious, they deliver rough-hewn metal, hanging back on a couple of tracks to let things simmer away sinisterly.
Aura Noir are pioneers of the blackened thrash scene—in ’96 they released the seminal *Black Thrash Attack, *sealing the Faustian deal. But they’ve not been the especially prolific, and there are plenty of younger outfits nipping at their heels. However, *Out to Die *proves there’s plenty of life left in the hellhounds yet. “Fed to the Flames” and “Deathwish” mix the crudity of extremely dark crossover thrash with a crusty, horrific bite, capturing the dry-as-a-desiccated-corpse rawness of the band’s production perfectly. The malevolent stomp of “Withheld” burns though its three minutes with a nasty corrosive finish, its atonal soloing securing the band’s retro-thrash pedigree.
As expected, Aura Noir serve up unadorned classic black thrash. But as much as the album adheres to their clearly staked out parameters, they’re still capable of unearthing fresh ideas. “Priest’s Hellish Fiend” has an inspired set of dissonantly cascading riffs. “The Grin from the Gallows” is magnificently gloomy with its doom-laden, grinding start, and “Out to Die” ends the album on a shattering blast of quintessential Euro primitiveness.
If you’re going to be producing the same iniquitous pandemonium on each and every album, it’s best you do it real well, and *Out to Die *contains some of Aura Noir’s best material yet. They deliver blasphemy and beastliness by the bile-filled bucketload, with fiendish vocals to intensify the vileness. It’s all very sordid, but what lifts Aura Noir above other gutter-dwelling metal acts are those antediluvian solos, the catchy yet caustic riffs, and the band’s fervent authenticity—the lineup speaks for itself in that regard.
Things are the same as they always were in Aura Noir’s fiefdom—very ugly and hostile—and *Out to Die *is a barbaric blitzkrieg that cuts to the quick of metal’s putrid core. Aura Noir have always been clear that they’re ’80s fans, and that’s where they’re staying, their gaze fixed firmly on metal’s twisted roots, averse to progression of any form.
Yet Out to Die proves it’s entirely possible to harness an old-school aesthetic and remain relevant and compelling. While other bands might like to fool around with all sorts of tweaks and twitches, Aura Noir favor the traditional sledgehammer approach. Mercilessly wielding the vertebrae-smashing mallet,* Out to Die* cements the band’s status as one of the leading purveyors of infectious filth and ferocity.