One of the biggest trends of 2016’s seemingly-ubiquitous djent scene has to be the fact that most bands have tried to stray as far away from their metal roots as possible, all while still trying to maintain a semblance of grit. What fans have been left with is a mostly watered-down clone of any number of bands’ earlier material. Too many musicians out there have decided that their heavier past simply isn’t cool and have instead opted to make what can only be described as progressive metal’s take on elevator music. Thankfully for Canada’s Auras, they’re out for blood on Heliospectrum. This record may be just as uber-clean and electronica-influenced as they come, but it’s one of the only times in recent memory that something out of this subgenre has sounded this pissed.
Yes, all of the familiar makings of your typical djent band are more than present. The “plurals” band name, the constant mid-tempo china cymbal spank, the breakdowns – you name it, it’s all there. While this record isn’t anywhere near reinventing the wheel (nor does it want to), Heliospectrum is an incredibly competent piece of work that makes up for its lack of innovation with a heap of charisma and tons of moments to snap your neck to. One of the biggest assets to the band’s sound has to be vocalist Eric Almeida, whose throaty snarl really helps give the band’s consistent polymetric onslaught a new-found sense of intensity and immediacy. Much like the album itself, Almeida’s vocals stay within a predictable delivery, but simply feel way more intense than most of Auras’ peers. It’s refreshing to see a band like this not stray away from what they know best and understand that maybe not every band out there needs to constantly try to hose Spencer Sotelo and Dan Tompkins.
For those on the hunt for grooves galore, man have you got it here. Heliospectrum is stubbornishly-groovy, constantly paying homage to the pioneering work of groups like Textures and early The Contortionist and the newer drop-G stylists of Whitechapel. There won’t be a single song here that doesn’t pack in at least two or three massive, headbanging moments, and the band never strays too far into ambient territory or tries to sneak in an unwarranted ballad. Sure, the album incorporates a lot of electronic influences, but it’s luckily used as a backbone instead of a focus. There are still a few moments to breathe, sure, but all ten of Heliospectrum’s tracks definitely follow a similar trajectory. Guitarists Aaron Hallman and Josh Ligaya weave in soaring and melodic leads atop their incessant down-tuned stomps while Nathan Bulla does a more than excellent Tomas Haake impression. By the the time the last few tracks of the album kick in you may be able to get where things are going, but you can’t deny that these guys have really stomped out a lot of their competition for this approach in recent months.
While Heliospectrum may lack an overall sense of identity, it’s still an achievement for a djent record in 2016 to have so much ferocity and conviction. There’s definitely an intangible feeling of passion throughout the record, which is certainly not something that can be said for a lot of lesser clones. If you’ve been missing a good ass-kicking in your groove metal as of late, this album is the one for you.