Sophomore albums are the chrysalis in which to-be-established acts germinate. A strong debut release is important but is too often revealed as a fluke or a singular burst of creative energy. Listeners then look to a second release in order to solidify an artist or band as a name to be watched. With Under A Western Sun, Son of Aurelius send out a very clear message: carve our name wherever you can, because we are here to stay. Their sophomore release is nothing short of a complete transformation, a transcendence of the already impossibly high standard these artists have set for themselves in the past.
Tidbits of this album have been making their way online in the past weeks, cleverly released by the band across several sources. However, no singular track could possibly do this album justice. The first apparent thing about Under a Western Sun is that it is a release wholly harmonized with itself, dependent on all its disparate parts to create un-containable power. This is even more impressive when we consider the fact that it’s obviously made up of two different and distinct parts: the recognized Son of Aurelius sound, namely melodic death metal that relies heavily on tech influences, and a new, audacious addition: a sound far more progressive, drawing on Cynic for its instrumentality on one hand and Devin Townsend and Hansi Kürsch for its clean vocals on the other. The first sound has given us tracks like ‘The Prison Walls’, the only track that truly sounds like it came from the previous release, and all the heavier passages replete throughout the album.
But the truly interesting parts of this release are the more progressive elements. To call them “quieter”, while technically true, would do them a grave injustice. The clean vocals, already compared above to some of the most explosive vocalists in metal, are the heralds of these passages. Under their lead operate guitars resplendent in a crisp tone that was no where to be found in the previous release and which calls more to earlier Mastodon than anything else. Both of these layers are further fleshed out by the bass, wholly embracing and recognizing its origins, rooted firmly within Cynic’s more iconic albums. This is supported by truly destructive drums, again a return to earlier days of death metal, drawing immensely upon At the Gates. All of these infuse the “quieter” parts with so much energy, that they equal any heavier segment on this album or any other.
Notice the reoccurring theme of returning to earlier periods of seminal bands within the genre. That is no coincidence. Son of Aurelius have basically decided to retrace the roots of the genre to which they belong, namely death metal in all its varied forms. From the opening track, with its telling name ‘Return to Arms’, soaked in the influences of Death themselves, to the never-resting ‘The Weary Wheel’ or ‘The Grand Liberation’, Son of Aurelius leave no stone un-turned in their quest for influences. However, instead of producing a tired rehashing of worn out sounds, they utilize their talents to reinvigorate them with new sensibilities and approaches. Under a Western Sun then is an ode to death metal, celebrating its roots and beloved sounds while being bold enough to construct something wholly new on top of them: a dynamic sound that is completely their own, replete with moving passages and complex musicality.
Son of Aurelius – Under a Western Sun gets…