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Urarv: Aurum

Those who follow the shifting channels of Norwegian black metal will recognize the genre's standard bearers straight away. Emperor, Mayhem, Gorgoroth . . . early movers who have remained in the deadlight all the way up to the present day. It takes a bit more digging to recognize some of the no less important characters in the scene, in this case one Bjørn Dencker Gjerde. Better known by the stage name Aldrahn, the Norwegian native was one of the visionaries responsible for pushing black metal into avant-garde territory. Due in large part to his development of the off-the-wall direction of Dødheimsgard, Aldrahn has lent his talents to acts such as Zykon-B, The Deathtrip, and Thorns. 2017 sees him give birth to the debut album of a band called Urarv, a creation of his that had been kicking around in his noggin since about 2003. Now with a band around him, and enough material, Aurum could be realized, officially dropping into the world courtesy of Svart Records on September 22nd of this year.

From the get go, it is clear that Aurum was no mere clopping together of disparate ideas culled over more than a decade. Of immediate interest and quality is the voice of Aldrahn. The years have only strengthened his apocalyptic bellow and here, it is an instrument unto itself. On 'Ancient DNA,' the reverb quality in his voice lends some added atmosphere. This tune chugs along, all with a stylistic nod to old school black metal. Double-bass comes in for added pit-churning energy. It is the vocal arrangements and affectations, which can only be described as zany and off-kilter, which sets this apart and actually lines it up nicely with the earlier aforementioned Dødheimsgard.

The ice-cold menace of 'The Retortion,' with superb bass-guitar provided by Sturt (Jens Johansen), ensures that this will not be a blast-fest. Banging your head, pleased with the rocking nature of the tune, the breakdown past its midpoint ratchets up the psychedelic, dark-folk atmosphere. Indeed, opener 'Fortvitringstid,' with an opening strum a bit reminiscent of 'Alsvartr (The Oath),' the Wagnerian intro to Anthems To The Welkin At Dusk (Emperor), shows that there is some type of folky aesthetic going on beneath the surface with Urarv. Soaring, bombastic choruses behind Aldrahn's native-tongue half-growl create a distinctly Norse pagan atmosphere as well.

But wait half a minute . . . is that Marcellus Wallace (actor Ving Rhames) from Pulp Fiction I hear being sampled during the song? His famous pre-fight speech about the dangers of pride to Bruce Willis' character Butch Coolidge – indeed it is one and the same. A bit of a mind-warp, but really, what did you expect?. Aldrahn has always been a fearless creator, and considering that Aurum was inspired by an extended stay in a mental hospital, one cannot be surprised by the left hand turns the album generously provides.

Where Aurum is a triumph is in the balance of all of these elements. Closing opus 'Red Circle' shows the black-n-roll mastery, held down by the sterling rhythm section of the aforesaid Sturt and drummer Trish Kolsvart (Asagraum, Elände, Gestalte, ex-DödsÄngel). This young lady turns in a blistering performance; one of the delays in Aurum's creation was Aldrahn's struggle to find the right band members. Safe to say, he struck gold with these two people.

Some fans' tolerance of the weird may be tested in places, such as during 'Valens Tempel.' The eldritch, carnival play of the vocals enter into Arcturus or Solefald territory on this one, a more progressive number that stretches for over eight minutes in length. Urarv manage the longer songs perfectly well, providing true heavy metal moments to achieve that balance with the bizarre. And they are bizarre. Aldrahn basically screams in terror, growls, and generally talks to himself for a good minute and a half toward the end of the song. One can always get lost in Sturt's Windir-like bass melodies though, letting the madness wash over them instead.

There is even a punk moment on the bouncy 'Fancy Daggers,' a sub-three minute romp summarized by more whistling and desperate vocalizations on the part of Aldrahn. Reminiscent of Kurt Cobain on the Bleach album, his rantings nevertheless come off as part of the song, instead of placed haphazardly overtop of it.

As strange and off-putting as it is intense and vicious, with Aurum, Urarv have managed to create an album of superior song craft that looks directly at the specter of institutionalization and the isolation it portends. We get a glimpse into the mind of someone who's been there, albeit with a terrific degree of musical precision. The only negative is that it took this long to surface, but, things happen when they can and Aldrahn's persistence in finding the right group has paid off. Do not miss this record.

Track Listing

  1. Forvitringstid – 5:34
  2. DNA – 5:27
  3. The Retortion – 5:37
  4. Broken Wand – 7:24
  5. Guru – 4:41
  6. Valens Tempel – 8:26
  7. Fancy Daggers – 2:48
  8. Red Circle – 9:07

Added: October 19th 2017
Reviewer: Nicholas Franco
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 898
Language: english

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