‘Deep tracts of hell’ is Aura Noir’s second album and it can prove disconcertingly hard for aficionados to get hold of, hence this rather neat repackaging which sees not only the original album re-mastered for extra sonic oomph, but also two bonus tracks thrown in for good measure. Originally released in 1998, the album saw the duo of Apollyon and Aggressor crafting some of the most gloriously uncompromising music imaginable, combining searing black metal with the furious rage of thrash over ten brutal tracks that totalled between them a mere 37 minutes.
Keeping the sound raw and simple is the order of the day with ‘deeper tracts of hell’. Although sonically powerful, there are no tricks or gimmicks here and if the drums are often nothing more than a dense rumble in the background, the guitars are so raw and untamed that they make ‘raw power’ sound like steps. Opening with the title track there is nothing here by way of a scene-setting intro, just a furious riff set to clattering percussion and overtopped with barely distinguishable vocals that are rarely more than a blistering haze of harsh sibilants and distorted cries. A fair approximation would be if you were to imagine Darkthrone demoing a Slayer cover in a basement and covered in blood and the results are never less than extremity defined. The riffs are solid, the songs never outstay their welcome and in under two minutes you’re catapulted into the pure black metal horror of ‘released damnation’, a track that swaps the thuggish brutality of thrash for a maelstrom of icy black metal riffs. A song of variation and intelligence, it is an early highlight and reason enough to desire the album if you haven’t already begged, borrowed or stolen a copy. ‘Swarm of vultures’ is much more thrash orientated, although still with that raw, blackened feel that made ‘released damnation’ so awesome, and it’s opening riff is pure thrash before it changes tack for a more Satyricon feel than found elsewhere. ‘Blood unity’ is better still with a brilliantly aggressive feel to its opening riff and vocals which are much more to the fore than elsewhere while the outro, complete with dazzlingly atonal solo, is gloriously deranged. Next up is the aptly titled ‘slasher’ a track as furious and unpleasant as its namesake and one liable to leave you just as damaged. ‘Purification of hell’ is the sonic equivalent of bleach, scouring everything in its path as surely as that pungent and unpleasant chemical product, with the vocals in particular proving to be obnoxious in the extreme.
Having torn you asunder with the unhinged menace of ‘purification of hell’, ‘the spiral scar’ has a remarkable cyclical riff that is both potent and dizzying. Like Emperor at twice its normal speed, it is a furious take on the black metal genre and the undeniable power at the heart of the production makes it deeply unsettling listening. ‘The beautiful, darkest path’ opens with the ominous rumble of the toms before a blast beat tears everything to pieces. Like being trapped in a cement mixer it is undoubtedly one of the most astonishingly brutal pieces of music ever committed to tape and few bands will ever surpass this brain-cell destroying benchmark. ‘Broth of oblivion’ is another track which wears its thrash influences proudly upon its sleeve. A dizzying riff coupled with eye-brow raising tempo changes keeps the listener guessing right up to the point where a warped riff is ground out with stunning intensity and vitriolic vocals are poured forth to form a toxic cocktail from which few will emerge safely. The final track of the original album is ‘to wear the mark’ which opens with a moment of ear-piercing feedback before the percussive barrage once again tears you a new one, the guitars sounding like nothing so much as a nest of buzzing, furious hornets ready to inflict pain and suffering as soon as they can find a target. Two bonus tracks are also present and correct in the form of ‘mirage’ which has a gloriously old school feel to it – sort of a warp speed Venom-style track that demonstrates the band’s love of leather trousers and high pitched wails when the mood takes them – and ‘the rape’ which sees Aura Noir unleash mid tempo drums and bass-led groove before unleashing a flurry of tinny guitars and hateful lyrics. The tracks are fine, but recording differences mean that the difference between the album tracks and these bonus tracks are noticeable to even the most casual of listeners and you can’t help but wonder if the album really needed these extras to be tacked on even if fans will be pleased to hear something new.
Overall this is a fine chance to get your hands on an album so savage it’s remarkable it doesn’t carry a government health warning. The packaging is well put together with full lyrics provided and it is no doubt an unwillingness on the part of the band that has resulted in the album being released without liner notes or commentary disc. Nonetheless, whilst I would be hard pressed to recommend this to someone who owns the original, Peaceville have once again done a great job of bringing out a rare gem in a decent package and at a decent price. Ultimately this is a release that is nigh on essential for black metal fans and it has attitude and aggression in spades. Well worth tracking down.