Ara – The Blessed Sleep (EP)

Today we have a new reviewer joining our ranks. Old Disgruntled Bastard (check out his personal blog) reviews the new EP from Ara titled ‘The Blessed Sleep‘.

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Tracklist:
01. Entitled Ascension 03:45
02. Demise Of Reason 03:16
03. The Blessed Sleep 05:27
04. Despair Personified 04:54
05. Abyssal Banishment 03:36

Subjectivity is a word bandied about frequently in music circles. One man’s bread can easily become another’s hemlock, but does such utopian ideology negate the value intrinsic in a piece of art? Passion, conviction, integrity – all words used flippantly to describe music, attributes hardly the sole purview of a particular kind of person, so how then can establishing consensus on certain styles be such a monumental, seemingly hopeless task? Maybe the ways in which we react to music are nothing but an accretion of our life’s experiences; the kind of person you are has to affect your receptivity to the music you’re listening to, the sort of stimuli it is capable of imparting.

But then, is all music deserving of such benevolent interpretation, or is a razing of vaunted ideals of tolerance sometimes warranted? Origin, new Spawn Of Possession –  technically adroit behemoths, no doubt, and of itself even striving for sheer technical prowess may be considered a noble pursuit, but is that the same as music?

For me , the bane of modern technical death metal has been the shocking lack, bordering at times on callous disregard, of emotional consonance. The tapestry has been redoubtably intricate but the panorama often reveals a fractured coherence, a central disunity of concept and vision. Far too many ideas jostle for prominence on a crowded canvas ultimately relegating memorability to the background. Ara are a young band from Wisconsin that evade the genre’s cosmetic pitfalls better than most; considering that The Blessed Sleep is their first appearance on plastic, this is a promising debut ( a conversation on subjective merits best left for another day).

Stream the entire EP here:

Ara, for the most part, avoid triggering their drums incessantly on this 5 song EP, a personal source of annoyance of mine with most modern death metal. Eric Stenglein’s drumming is spastic and nimble, but it feels organic,  and gives the surrounding music a little leg room. And leg room is something it needs, because the guitars, except during a few moments of relative tranquility, are in a perpetually hyperventilating mood, though Jerry Hauppa admirably weaves around the modern-day deadfall of excessive, mind-melting sweeping.

But it is those precious moments when Ara slow down to a more somber pace that reveal the band’s maturity as restrained writers. The songs ‘The Blessed Sleep‘ and ‘Despair Personified’ are the best demonstrations of the band’s assets; the former boasts measured drums that lurch forward into palsied thrashing when needed, the bass shown off in its twanging glory (there is a subtle nod to Cryptopsy on the opener ‘Entitled Ascension’), and an ending melody that could’ve been on ‘The Red In The Sky Is Ours’.

Adam Bujny chooses a consistent hardcore/grunt hybrid here with the occasional layered snarl, and it’s a good choice for the music, recalling Luc Lemay on Obscura. The production is crystal; my personal leanings are towards a muddier sound, but this is technical death metal and the least I can say is that it is balanced well, no instrument winning over another in the loudness stakes.

Perhaps the highest compliment I can pay the band is that Ara “feel” closer to Gorguts on Obscura than, say, another modern tech band like Element. The songwriting makes no concessions to Gothenburg or Death-style melodies that invariably creep into this musical style. This is inherently abrasive music, stridently confrontational, but it grows well without resorting to the saccharine. Definitely a band to keep an eye on.

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Cognizance – Inquisition

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Tracklist:
1. Clones of The Night Sky
2. The Perennial Struggle
3. Epistemology
4. Defying A Natural Process

“A world of fascination lays before our senses

It reveals the most elegant design”

2012 was a brilliant year for tech death. Albums from Gorod, Gory Blister, Innerty, Sophicide, Psycroptic and The Faceless melted my face off at least half a dozen times. Come 2013 and I still do get a feeling that this year is geared to get even bigger and better with more bands getting into the genre. On one of my typical youtube streaming sessions I happen to stumble upon on a track called ‘Clones of the Night Sky’ from the band Cognizance. A single listen was all it took for my brain to get blown to smithereens and yet left me insatiate and wanting more. A bit of searching over at Facebook, led me to find that Cognizance was a two man technical death metal outfit hailing from Leeds, UK. They’ve just come out with an EP titled ‘Inquisition’ comprising of 4 tracks, this February.

More often than not, technical death metal usually ends up being one huge riff fest devoid of any character and simply exists to address a more instrument savvy audience. But with Cognizance, it’s just simply not the case. They give songwriting and structure its due credit.

The EP is nothing short of an absolute onslaught of the senses. Now there are only a few ways to pack so many riffs into one single song. Also when all of the four songs just happen to be around the 3-4 minute mark, this becomes almost impossible. But these guys do so with such relative ease and yet maintain a certain finesse so that it does not take a toll on the overall cohesive nature of the songs. Inquisition combines earth shattering brutality with intertwining melodies perfectly, emanating a certain sense of undeniable catchiness.  Tracks such as ‘The Perennial Struggle’ and ‘Defying a Natural Process’ see the band through its best moments. The former showcases some really intricate and surreal lead work and probably features some of the best grooves on the album. The latter track on the other hand impressed me with the lyrics . The lyrical output of the band seem to be more direct yet potent and not descending down to being just another exercise in medical jargon, as is staple in the genre. To the contrary they are more grounded in science and philosophy. ‘Defying a Natural Process’ talks about man’s relentless hunt for self advancement(physical and mental) and in effect defying and disrupting the natural order. With the rapid advancement of science this is really not that far off. Yet the same lyric may be interpreted in different ways as well.

“Acceptance is the key to fruition regarding this solitary master”

The craft doesn’t end there, the EP despite comprising of just four tracks feature a slew of impressive guest appearances as well. The track Epistemolgy features guest vocals from Aaron Matts of ‘Betraying the Martyrs’ fame. Also featured are Reece Fullwood (Eumeria), Scott Carstairs from the brilliant Fallujah and last but not the least the drums are played and tracked by Alex Rudinger who is now officially the drummer for The Faceless as well.

This is one EP that simply will not wear you down even after multiple listens. Meticulously crafted riffs, winding leads, mind bending grooves, blitzkrieg drumming and a good ear for songwriting all make up for an enthralling listen.

P.S. I sincerely thank Henry Pryce (vocals) for sharing the EP with me.

Follow the band on Facebook.

Buy their CD for just $3 here