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Aronious – Irkalla

by Santiago Puyol at 06 October 2022, 12:04 PM

Beautiful piano playing opens up “Irkalla”, the sophomore full-length by Progressive/Technical Death Metallers ARONIOUS. This very soundtrack-like intro, a bit reminiscent of MIKE OLDFIELD or even JOHN CARPENTER, sets up the mood if not the actual sound of an enigmatic, vaguely ritualistic album. Coming from Great Bay, Wisconsin, ARONIOUS set out to explore the Mesopotamian underworld through six tightly composed songs —plus two short instrumentals bookends— on this follow-up to their debut album, “Perspicacity”, another conceptual work.

This is a record filled with sprawling, somewhat lengthy tracks, that all go over the five-minute line, sometimes reaching seven minutes in duration. The songwriting and impeccable musicianship is what keeps the album together and makes it an enjoyable ride for the most part. Shifting between heavier, denser and more technically impressive sections and softer, melodic and atmospheric parts brings a sense of dynamism that the subject matter definitely needs.

Coming as the first proper track, “Descent of Inanna” is filled with syncopated frenzy, a sense of urgency and a rush of adrenaline that pairs up nicely with Brandon Brown’s shrieky growls. Even though the drums and guitars are a bit relentless and oppressive, the bass comes through with a warmer sound. This is a song that mostly highlights the Tech-Death writing and the skilled musicianship of the band as a whole. Still, it is anchored on a brutal and memorable chorus with an outstanding staccato sound from the vocals that perfectly echo the machine-like instrumental. This neat trick will be repeated immediately on the riff-heavy “Nincubura”, to somewhat diminishing returns being too close on the tracklist.

Ereshkigal” brings some truly great melodic and even atmospheric ideas, adding a bit of colour to the record. A feast for Andrew Kim’s on bass too who lays down some of the nastiest, most brutal grooves here. Ryan Brumlic’s solo on the final section of the song is simply astonishing, an extremely cathartic moment on the record, walking the line between economical, melodic writing and technically impressive shredding. Things end on a psychedelic if somewhat too brief coda.

A recurring idea that ARONIOUS utilises to emphasise the ritualistic, otherworldly nature of the record, is the addition of deep, theatrical clean vocals, neatly layered in the mix —even if a little too low in volume. The most interesting example has to be during the unofficial title track, “Elu Ultu Irkalla”, that leans on it on multiple occasions, giving this expansive track an extra oomph, and a supernatural feel. It certainly feels like a conjuring or twisted prayer of sorts. “Nincubura” and “Enkidu” also feat this layered chorus, perfectly placed to maximize the drama in the best possible sense.

Reprising the instrumental album intro on “Negeltu” feels particularly inspired, as it highlights the conceptual aspect of the music when the lyrics —being mostly undecipherable— might not be able to. Brandon Brown goes fully demonic in this track, with growls delivered in a way that could crawl under your skin and possess you. By the time the song ends, we bid adieu to the underworld with “Warkanum”, another beautiful if vaguely sinister, brief instrumental. Or maybe we are staying there forever.

Irkalla” is a solid second album for ARONIOUS, that mostly plays to the band’s strengths, even if it feels a bit unmemorable at times. This is a talented group of players, with undeniable skill to their craft. The main issue has to be with the songwriting. Somehow, the more straight-forward songs on the record feel a tad too long (Descent of Inanna, Nincubura and Enkidu) even if they are actually shorter than other tracks, as their main ideas get repeated a bit too much. A heavier emphasis on dynamics could help these tracks, as “Ereshkigal” or “Elu Ultu Irkalla” perfectly exemplify they are absolutely capable of that kind of writing and playing.

Songwriting: 7
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 5
Production: 8

3 Star Rating

1. Ananaki
2. Descent of Inanna
3. Nincubura
4. Ereshkigal
5. Enkidu
6. Elu Ultu Irkalla
7. Negeltu
8. Warkanum
Brandon Brown – Vocals
Ryan Brumlic – Lead Guitar, Keyboard/Synth and Backing Vocals
Nick Weyers – Rhythm Guitar
Andrew Kim – Bass
Kevin Paradis – Drums
Record Label: The Artisan Era


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