If ever Venom’s none-more-seminal ‘Black Metal’ opus had a spiritual successor it is in the deeply unpleasant and disturbing blackened thrash of Aura Noir’s debut album, even if a gap of some 14 years existed between the two. Unlike ‘Black metal’, however, it is not the cover that perfectly encapsulates Aura Noir’s sound, but the dedication at the end that reduces the band’s sentiments to a neat three lines: “Thanx to: We don’t need no-one PISS OFF!”
Arguably Aura Noir’s wide ranging influences lay clser to thrash than black metal when they crafted this misanthropic gem. The production is admirably raw but nonetheless the guitars ram home with real clarity of purpose and the riffs are far more traditional than the unforgiving vocals and percussion might have you initially believing. The result is a sound that captures the spirit and intensity of black metal but allies it to the slightly more traditional strictures of thrash metal, and while the album is frequently blistering in its intensity, it also maintains the technical feel of vintage Metallica within its furious riffs and pummelling bass.
The album opens with the furious ‘sons of Hades’ and it’s hard to imagine how music fans, faced with this monstrous racket for the first time must have felt as the lyrics were spat at them as breakneck speed. The mid-section, slowed down to a doomish crawl is also particularly effective, serving to make the fast passages that bookend it sound all the more intense. It’s a violent and shocking introduction to an album that rarely dips below that level, and if ‘sons of Hades’ was a statement of intent, then its gurning follow-up is surely the embodiment of that intent being carried through. ‘Conqueror’ combines stat-of-the-art riffs with unholy shrieks and light-speed percussion, drawing out the icy cold feel of traditional black metal and welding it to a gleaming thrash framework that somehow succeeds in making Slayer sound ever so slightly slow. It’s as if Aura noir’s mission statement is to make every other extreme band sound weak – and they damn near succeed. ‘Caged wrath’ is a track of unmitigated fury, Aggressor sounding increasingly possessed while the guitars bob and weave around the flailing percussion. ‘Wretched face of evil’ conjures the spirit of Darkthrone covering Metallica with Mayhem in attendance (a feeling further reinforced by Blasphemer’s inclusion on guitar), with ambitious percussion backing the surging riffs whilst the title track, rather like Ronseal, does exactly what it says on the tin.
Moving on to the wonderfully dark ‘The pest’, the track is as short, violent and unholy as you might expect from its name before the band take a sinister turn with ‘the one who smite’ which, grammatical inconsistencies aside, sheds tempo and gains extraordinary weight in the process, referencing the dry, uncompromising doom of Thergothon as it goes. It’s a sludge-thick distressing centrepiece to the album and it stands in contrast to the extremities of speed that surround it. ‘Eternally your shadow’ is a full-tilt blast of indistinguishable lyrics and coruscating riffs that leads nicely to ‘destructor’, an old-school blackened thrash gem that recalls the might of Kreator and Sodom. The final track of the album proper is ‘fighting for hell’ which is surely one of the most succinct clarion calls to arms that black metal has emitted.
This being a reissue, Peaceville have raided the vaults for extra material, turning up a vintage cover of Venom’s ‘heavens on fire’ which is a nice addition but hardly essential – consider it a bonus if you don’t already own the album. However the one area that is lacking is liner notes; given the obvious disdain for anyone and everyone it is hardly surprising that the band themselves chose not to get involved, but it would have been nice to see an essay on the formation of the band and/or the album included here. However, with full lyrics printed and a couple of nicely atmospheric black and white shots, the booklet does at least look nice. Overall this is a top class and nigh-on essential blackened thrash album, the merits of which speak for itself and the need for extras minimal. If you don’t own a copy then this a well-priced and beautifully presented edition to sink your teeth into, but there’s nothing here that would suggest a need to purchase the disc for a second time – however if you haven’t yet sullied your ears with this poisonous and ferocious debut album now is a good chance to catch up on what you’ve missed.