Folks, it has been a LONG wait for this one. I can’t tell you how much I’ve anticipated this review ever since “Arkanum” debuted over at No Clean Singing. I have not been floored by a track like that in a good while, and I think I grabbed the full promo the minute it was available. After having about six weeks to sit with it, I have only gotten more psyched up to talk about what almost assuredly will be in my top releases for the year, Aara’s sophomore album En Ergô Einai.
Aara are relative newcomers to the Swiss black metal scene, releasing their debut album just last year and an EP in between. Truly, these releases are not to be overlooked, but it can’t be overstated just how much En Ergô Einai improves on every aspect of what the band has done before. The melodies are so much clearer, more defined and so much more emotionally charged. The aggression is metered out in a way that paces the songs and allows them to flow into and out of different movements. Everything feels a lot grander and more purposeful. A huge part of what contributes to this is maturity. The band have had a lot of time to grow and respond to feedback, and on En Ergô Einai multi-instrumentalist Berg pulls influences from classical music in addition to the usual atmospheric black metal. Vocalist and lyricist Fluss set a story for the album in the time of the 18th century enlightenment, which is not where one would expect to find incredible black metal, but for this band it works in spades to tie the words and music together. The duo is rounded out to a trio with the addition of new member J on the drums, which adds an incredible amount of life to the songs. These are some of the most gorgeously crafted black metal songs I have heard in a long time, and in a scene that has exploded in popularity across the globe I have been feeling for a while that we reached the peak of what could be done with melody and atmosphere in black metal. I was wrong, but I have never been happier to be wrong in my life.
“Arkanum” opens the album with a two-minute introduction by Vindsval from Blut Aus Nord, which feels like it transports me to 18th century Europe before the band crashes in and explodes into soaring melodies and pummeling drums. There’s something absolutely magical about the way that everything comes together on this piece. The guitar lines sound almost symphonic, like they are replacing violins and cellos and weaving in and out of the vocals. Fluss’ shrieks are not going to be to everyone’s taste, but I think they work really well with everything else going on in the song. They sit in the classic black metal low spot in the mix, which I’m fine with but I know people who know more about mixing than I do might complain. I think they work more as a textural element than anything else. There is a concept and story behind the album, but the vocals are not meant to be the focal point. It’s not easy to decipher the lyrics, but you absolutely feel the struggle for meaning and purpose in the world each song represents with every impassionate wail and cry, and that’s what matters. “Stein auf Stein” is another heavy hitter that opens with what feels like a classic waltz with a stunning melody that completely transports me outside of my own body. Things get a little more aggressive towards the middle of the song, and there’s even a ripping guitar solo towards the end. The classical influence is hugely obvious in every aspect of this album, especially on closer “Telôs,” which features choral arrangements and more evocative melodies carefully laid over each other.
I cannot stress enough how hauntingly beautiful these songs are. It’s one thing to be able to talk about songs that move you; it’s another thing entirely to feel it so deeply it’s almost impossible to find the words. I simply have not heard anything that resonates with me this deeply in a long time. Top ten releases for the year? Absolutely, practically guaranteed. Top five? That’s a pretty safe bet too. Top three? The year is still young but, goddamn, I cannot think of much else that could be better than this.