After departing from his previous band, Lestregus Nosferatus, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Ron Vento headed to the fertile extreme metal soil of Florida in search of a musician to collaborate with. It turns out that here he met Tony Laureano, one of extreme metal's finest drummers, and they ended up forming Aurora Borealis and recording Mansions of Eternity, the band's debut EP. Tony parted ways with Aurora Borealis after this release due to his busy schedule (he returned 10 years later for Relinquish), but Mansions of Eternity represents an extremely promising start for this extreme metal duo, even if this lineup would be very short-lived. While not quite up there with the strength of some of the band's more recent full-lengths, Mansions of Eternity is a very promising and damn impressive debut effort from one of America's finest black/death metal exports.
The music on Mansions of Eternity is very much like Aurora Borealis' later output, albeit a bit more unpolished and raw. That means you should expect black/death metal with a technical edge; super-technical drum patterns, blast beats, fast tremolo picking, and harsh black metal-styled vocals are the name of the game here. Mansions of Eternity isn't without variation, though, and the more melodic sections keep the EP fresh and exciting throughout its entire near-27 minute duration. Highlights here include the perfect opening track, "Crowned With Embalment", and the slightly progressive "Slave to the Grave". All of the songs are well worth your attention, though, as they are filled with memorable riffs and fantastic displays of technical prowess. Musicianship has always been a high point in Aurora Borealis' music, and that's no exception on this humble debut EP. The relentless fretwork from Ron Vento never ceases to amaze and the manic drumming from Tony Laureano (Nile, Angelcorpse, Dimmu Borgir) is insane, to say the least. Mansions of Eternity also possesses an extremely raw and unpolished production, but I really enjoy it. Sure, it isn't as crystal-clear as their newer efforts, but you can still understand everything that's going on and the raw atmosphere suits the music perfectly. The fat sound of the drums makes it pretty clear that this EP was mixed and mastered by the now-legendary Scott Burns (famous for producing albums by Cynic, Gorguts, Death, Cannibal Corpse, Terrorizer, Sadus, Psychotic Waltz, Atheist etc.).
So even though Aurora Borealis has released some stronger material since this 1996 debut EP, Mansions of Eternity still stands as an extremely impressive effort that I'd recommend to just about any extreme metal fan. Ron Vento & co. really were a powerhouse since conception, and that shines ever so brightly on Mansions of Eternity. I'll play my 3.5 star card here and advise everyone to head over to Aurora Borealis' official website and check this one out. After all, it is available for free!
1. Crowned With Embalmment (5:39)
2. Weighing of the Heart (5:39)
3. Valley of the Kings (5:52)
4. Slave to the Grave (5:56)
5. Sixteenth Chamber (3:40)
Total Time: 26:46