Being founded in the infamous place and time of early to mid 90’s Norway would usually mean that a band would be predisposed to be a second wave black metal band. While Aura Noir did take influences from the same set of bands that influenced the second wave, there is some difference in the way the influences shaped their music. Aura Noir’s thrashier black metal takes inspiration from first wave black metal bands like Bathory, Hellhammer and Celtic Frost, along with the some of the then contemporary bands like Darkthrone. Their first album ‘Black Thrash Attack’ is undoubtedly my favourite from their catalogue because of how filthy and raw it sounds. ‘The Merciless’ comes close, but there hasn’t been an album from this band that I would consider to be underwhelming anyway.
With a lot of anticipation, and after a revisit to their solid discography, I put on their latest release ‘Aura Noire’. This time again, the music sounds like it birthed in the time where there was no distinction between the extreme metal genres. The production is raw while still sounding nicely mixed. I was a little let down on my first listen, as I felt the slight decrease in the blackened aspects of their music dulled the proceedings. A few more listens later and I could see that the vile atmosphere is still there, although it’s not overt. Another thing to notice is that the album is not fast-paced as often as their earlier releases. Some of the slower sections focus more on the dark undertones than the riffing.
The first single that was released, “Dark Lung of the Storm”, was one of the weaker tracks of the album in my opinion, so if you didn’t like that, you should still check out the rest of the album. The longest track of the album, “Hell’s Lost Chambers” is a solid galloping mid-tempo track that is also the darkest track on here. It probably is my favourite track as well, even though it’s not like the typical face-ripping paced tracks of Aura Noir. Tracks like “The Obscuration” and “Demoniac Flow” adds a speed metal spin, and while they are definitely enjoyable tracks, they don’t bring anything remarkable to the table. What they do though is ramp up the pace of the album as the tracks before it were slower than the usual Aura Noir material.
Overall, ‘Aura Noire’ is a more patient and controlled album when compared to their early works, and the thrash elements are more prominent in the riff writing. I maintain that Aura Noir is at their best when they let themselves loose with the filthy blackened riffs and pace, and while this album is not as bludgeoning, the aggression is patched across the thirty odd minutes of the album. While this is a notable album in isolation, I still would prefer their uncontrolled, imperfect and maniacal older works.