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Grey Aura – Zwart Vierkant

Grey Aura
Zwart Vierkant
by Andrew Graham at 12 April 2021, 7:54 PM

To say that Dutch musical explorers GREY AURA push the boundaries of black metal would be a tremendously unhelpful understatement. Black metal is stretched to the limit, warped almost beyond recognition, and pushed in directions it was never intended to go and, to be sure, never lingers in any one of these directions long enough to settle comfortably into a single niche. We the listener are, however, taken to some truly fascinating places along the way. Frequent readers of mine will know by now my predilection towards genre-nerding, though this often comes with footnotes and clarifications. Frankly the ‘post-black metal’ label here is overly simplistic and reductive. Comparison to other acts in this genre simply don’t help to illuminate the sheer breadth of influences and experimentation on display.

Album opener “Maria Segovia” takes pains to centre the listener around a centre of gravity fixed firmly in black metal, but pretty quickly lets us know that detours into other traditions will be taken – jazz (especially evident in the bass playing), folk, and prog to name but a few. “Rookslierten, Flessen” builds on this playful subversion of genre expectations. “Het Schuimspoor Van De Ramp” makes extensive use of a vocal vibration effect, adding to the already colourful layers piled so carefully on layers. As the tracks progress the listener very much gets the feeling of being drawn into a strange and tormented world. “El Greco In Toledo” combines soft acoustic guitars with more familiar dissonant and distorted guitar tones in a way that is so jarring as to demand attention, without being impenetrable. The captivating outro features trumpets on top of an already well-populated sonic landscape – this truly has to be heard to be believed!

“Parijs is een portaal” oh-so casually punctuates more conventional black metal angst with sections of more jazzy contemplation. “De Onnoemelijke Verleidelijkheid Van De Bezwijkende Deugd” through its more conventional black metal feel and clever use of build-ups and jumps between timings and styles manages to convey a palpable sense of paranoia – a difficult emotion to convey musically, at least difficult to do well. “Sierlijke Schaduwmond” is, in many ways, a culmination of the wide variety of outside influences we have seen – prog, jazz, folk, even elements of ambient music. Alas, we have reached the end of a journey of vast introspective darkness.

To be sure this is difficult and complex music, requiring fixed attention and a keen ear. I would qualify that I wouldn’t want to write this off as elitist or pompous, far from it! Good art has something to say, and this definitely says something worthwhile. It is in places witty, jarring, thoughtful, introspective, and more. Whilst perhaps too experimental for some, this is a magical mystery tour well worth the effort to understand and appreciate.

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

4 Star Rating

1. Maria Segovia
2. Rookslierten, Flessen
3. Het Schuimspoor Van De Ramp
4. El Greco In Toledo
5. Parijs Is Een Portaal
6. De Onnoemelijke Verleidelijkheid Van De Bezwijkende Deugd
7. Sierlijke Schaduwmond
Tjebbe Broek – Guitar, bass, percussion, effects
Ruben Wijlacker – Guitar, bass, percussion, vocals, effects
Bas van der Perk – Drums
Record Label: Onism Productions


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Edited 23 March 2023

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