One of the toughest lines to draw as a music critic, especially in a genre as idiosyncratic as metal, is the one at which a release stops just being average and starts being a good addition to its genre. For each critic, it’s different, and is quite possibly one of the most subjective parts of reviewing music, an already entirely subjective job, despite what some people will tell you to the contrary. No two individuals share a common ground on what’s enough to delineate an album as a solidly “good” part of the increasingly archaic and colossally diverse family tree of the metal genre.
That being said, there are things can generally be agreed upon: an album that can be considered a welcome branch on the towering striated redwood of metal must be well-written, it must clearly be made with a passion for its sound, and, above all, it must be interesting. The problem comes in when this last characteristic breaks down: what constitutes being “interesting” is a nebulous concept that can’t exist outside the mind of the listener and varies from individual to individual. For some, it’s enough that the album is of consistent quality and makes one feel the same way other good albums in the genre do; others are more rigorous and less merciful in their approach and demand a unique outlook and sound from each album before they’re ready to even begin thinking about categorizing said material as good or bad.
Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort (yes, really), the debut album from Finnish black metal band Grey Aura, neatly cleaves the latter and former halves in a powerful fashion by the time the first substantial track is over. A double album that precariously balances an all-out atmospheric black metal assault with off time rhythmic stabbings that have a slight neoclassical bent to them, that is on one side a decent – if somewhat predictable and formulaic – progressive melodic black metal album, and on the other side, well, the same record, but viewed in a more negative light.
First, the positives: the production of Waerachtighe totally nails the atmosphere the band were going for. It’s equal parts frigid and grandiose, vast in its gaze but intimately chilly. Listening to this album, one truly feels as though they’re with Willem Barentsz, whose travels form the conceptual backbone of the album, in the rimewind polar climes he explored on his final journey. Songwriting-wise, the record achieves a good balance, knowing when to go full-on Wolves In The Throne Room worship and let tremolo melodies over blast beats seize the listener and take them soaring over an undulating landscape of glaciers and when to cruelly bring the audience back down to earth with a calculated, shredding blast of cold air in the form of lurching on-again-off-again blackened death metal that bring to mind the mighty Dissection. If all you want from this album is a band that conjures up both of those artists above in a way not many others do, stop reading this here and go listen to some of Waerachtighe. If you’re more demanding in what you want from your music and its novelty, then keep reading.
The balances listed above would make for a compelling album all their own, but, unfortunately, they’re hamstrung by some serious faults. Foremost, Grey Aura’s songwriting is rarely interesting in its own right; each riff smacks of another, better band’s influence in a way that doesn’t come off as worship as much as it does ripping them off. Next comes the fact that, when original ideas do emerge on Waerachtighe, they’re not usually interesting or well-executed. The use of reversed vocals is interesting at the start, and the way they conjure up a sweeping wind is, admittedly, pretty cool the first couple times; after that, though, due to overuse, it often starts to feel like a crutch, used in place of other, more potent strategies that could have resulted in the same effect. The opposite problem occurs with the use of strings and bombastic orchestras on the shorter instrumental tracks: it’s a squandered opportunity they don’t appear in more emotionally compelling places or alongside any of the more aggressive bits of the album.
Now, to quickly address the elephant on the room before wrapping it up: by no means did this need to be a double album. There’s quite a lot of fat to be trimmed here, and a good half-hour could have easily been shaved off for a shorter and more consistently exciting, engaging single LP instead of two cut-above-mediocre ones. It sounds harsh, but the length alone is a serious strike out for Waerachtighe. It’s a waste of time as is to sit through 80+ minutes of this when 50 or even 45 would have been plenty to get the point across.
Grey Aura shows a lot of promise as a band. Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort is a good debut for a cool-sounding atmospheric and melodic black metal band with the occasional progressive tendency. As an album on its own, though, far too often does it verge towards the boring and self-indulgent to be worth checking out. Keep Grey Aura on your radar for future releases, but do yourself a favor and give Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort a pass.
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Grey Aura – Waerachtighe beschryvinghe van drie seylagien, ter werelt noyt soo vreemt ghehoort gets…