Have you ever seen the northern lights? Maybe you know them by their more scientific name, the Aurora Borealis. How about the Aurora Australis, the southern equivalent to the breathtakingly beautiful astronomicphenomenon. If you haven’t witnessed them in person, you’ve no doubt seen images or footage of them—and the first time they grace your eyes can only be describe as awesome. In a brilliant combination of science and surreal mystery, the only real response is a slack-jawed, awe-struck stare. The same response can be applied to the British progressive metalcore act of the same name—Aurora. In recent years, heavy music has been subject to a schism; melody versus murderous heaviness, and there are factions that support either side with the zeal of a religious fanatic. With their breakout full length, Faith/Breaker, Aurora do just that—shatter the faiths of heavy music’s dichotomous devotion and do what for so long has seemed extraordinary: smoothly and masterfully combine hard-hitting, hell-raising heaviness with heart-stopping atmosphere in one of the genre’s most immersive releases to date.
Instrumentally, Aurora are as incredible and unique as the astral event from which they gather their name. With songs that showcase brutality, technicality and ethereality effortlessly, it seems as if there is very little this quintet can’t do. Percussionist Josh Moran is the definition of multitalented—with rollicking, raunchy patterns that define the aggressive anthems “Faith/Breaker” and “The Obsessor,” yet splashy, sprawling cymbals and deep, cavernous toms that fill the loftier, melodic moments in “Purgatory,” among others. Moran is capable at everything from flashy fills to fleet footwork, touching on more than his fair share of styles and subtle splashes of color to fill in every track as Faith/Breaker progresses. Moran is more than the steady, solid heartbeat that pushes Aurora along, however–he is the foundation for the fretwork of bassist Josh Hammond, as well as guitarists Luke Thompson and Josh Humphries. Hammond adds heft and punch to Moran’s thick kick drum, giving the speedy groove in “Cold Hearts” a liberal dose of grime. However, the truly ear-catching moments of Faith/Breaker flow forth from the fingers of Humphries and Thompson. “Cold Hearts,” as well as the closing track “Rain/Dance” show off this duo at their most dynamic—with both tracks featuring Aurora at their collective heaviest, yet still “lightened up” with moments of atmosphere that makesNorthlanelook like adolescents and could fit on The Contortionist’s latest release. The most impressive aspect of Humphries and Thompson’s dynamic isn’t just found in the riffs and grooves they play, but, rather how smoothly they flow from chug-laden brutality (look no further than “Faith/Breaker”) to soft, serene melody (“Purgatory” as one of many examples). The two guitarists give new meaning to “dynamic duo,” as they tackle Goliath grooves and spine-shrinking breakdowns with ease, only to slip into dream-like states of blissful peace.
Allow me to digress from Aurora’s current album for a moment to steep you in a bit of history. 2012 and 2013 saw the UK give birth to a deathcore act named WolveXhys. While their time on the heavy music circuit was short-lived, they presented the talents of frontman Rhys Whitehouse in an excellent light. Here’s where I’m going with this: if, in 2012, you would have told me Whitehouse would front a progressive metalcore act in a matter of years, I would have scoffed—but here he is, the vocalist for Aurora, providing his best and most intense performance to date. Sharing the stage with cleanly crooned vocals sprinkled throughout Faith/Breaker, Whitehouse reminds the listener of the true definition of talent. With more straightforward tracks like “Perseverance” and “Scriptures” highlighting his hefty mid-range shout, Whitehouse truly shines on “Rain/Dance,” “The Obsessor” and the album’s title track with murky, filthy bellows that steep the listener in grime and plunge their head into filth so long that they practically drown in it—only to gasp in breaches of clean, serene singing during Aurora’s more placid segments. Between his goosebump-inducing low bellows and his strong shouts, Whitehouse gives not only his best performance, but one of the most energetic, enduring and ferocious vocal performances of 2015.
Aurora leave no stone unturned. Every track is a memorable metalcore anthem, with portions that keep the listener’s adrenaline high and pulse pounding contrasted against segments of stillness and peace that rob the listener of breath. The quintet are as powerful as they are peaceful, the very definition of well-rounded that so many releases in the contemporary heavy music sphere have abandoned entirely. If the album’s lead single, “Faith/Breaker” doesn’t give you a reason to look further into Aurora, then the soul-smothering climax to “Perseverance” surely will, just as the spirit-soothing “Purgatory” will knock any listener out of their chair. In a time where it’s either “go heavy or go home” or “does it djent? Where’s the thall?” Are monikers of heavy music around the world, Aurora pose a good question:
Why not both?
For Fans Of: Architects (UK), Volumes, Martyr Defiled, Carcer Road
By: Connor Welsh