Even the best tech-death has a tendency to become pretty overwhelming. As bands increasingly add more notes and elements to their repertoire, in an attempt to push the bounds of extremity and technicality, the central textures of their compositions often becomes obscured. The genre works best when bands strike the balance between technicality and listenability just right, which is exactly what The Ritual Aura have done on their new album, Velothi.
Velothi is also one of the most varied examples of technical death metal to have emerged in some time. The album begins with a piano intro – courtesy of Jimmy Pitts (Eternity’s End, Equipoise) – before “Sunder I: Lorkhan, Heir of the Void” kicks in with a slew of violins, which give way to a melodic tech-death guitar solo, atop a jazzy fretless bass interlude that at times even sounds like a cello (or possibly even is, if I’m mistaken). The Ritual Aura’s abundance of ideas have never quite coalessced on previous releases. However, here they blend together beautifully; never staying still but always with a single element in focus, which transitions fluently into the next.
Though the violin and orchestral elements take centre-stage, Velothi is never short of ideas. “Sunder III: A Reasonable Amount of Selfishness” is built around a bendy melodic lead that recalls Dreamless-era Fallujah, before “Keening I: Psijic | Chim” adds some gothic, female vocals to the mix, courtesy of Adrianna Tentori, who has previously worked with Inanimate Existence, among others. “Keening III: Dreamer’s End” adds some melodic texture to the male vocals as well, through the addition of Profane Casket‘s Zak Kay and Colin Butler of Virulent Depravity, whose 2017 record, Fruit of the Poisoned Tree, comes up as a constant reference throughout most of Velothi. Ex-Obscura guitarist Tom “Fountainhead” Geldschläger also shows up on the track for a fretless guitar solo and there’s flutes, violas, erhus and even a harp to be found elsewhere.
Velothi is an album with A LOT going on on it. Yet it never feels cluttered. The album’s minuscule run-time is one of its greatest strengths. While The Ritual Aura manage to pack a lot into Velothi‘s scant twenty-nine minues, it never feels bloated the way Tæther (2016)’s exhausting and often disjointed hour and ten minutes did before it. By the time Velothi culminates in “Keening IV: Red Year & the Fall” and a bonus cover of “Silt Sunrise”, from The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind soundtrack,* every moment of it feels natural and earned – and, if you’re anything like me, you’ll be hitting the replay button, repeatedly, every time it does.
Velothi is out now, independently, and can be purchased using the bandcamp link above.
*The Morrowind cover and its bandcamp tags imply that Velothi is Elder Scrolls-themed, which I can tell you nothing about. However, I do find think its cover art looks like a (more) sinister version of the Fungal Wastes from Hollow Knight.