Album Review: Aara — “Triade III: Nyx”

Astute listeners of the site will remember that my first ever album of the year pick was Aara‘s En Ergô Einai, an album that captivated me from the moment I first threw it on.  Since then, it has been an absolute whirlwind of momentum for the Swiss trio, with no less than four major releases since 2020, including Triade III: Nyx, the closing chapter of their trio of albums in tribute to Charles Maturin’s 1820 novel “Melmoth the Wanderer.”  Nyx may mark the culmination of the story the band are trying to tell, but in terms of what they have to accomplish musically, they appear to only be getting started.  Warning: there will be spoilers for “Melmoth the Wanderer” so if, uh, that’s something you are trying to avoid, read carefully I guess.

“Melmoth the Wanderer” is a long and frankly complicated novel, but anyone familiar with Aara’s body of work should know that tackling a narrative subject as philosophically dense as this comes as second nature to Fluss, Berg and J.  Begun in 2021 almost immediately after completing En Ergô Einai, the band began their anticipated follow up building off of their love of 18th century European philosophy (En Ergô Einai was, after all, themed after the Enlightenment).  Triade I: Eos picks up the story with the reveal of the character of Melmoth, a scholar who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for an extra 150 years on Earth, so long as he is able to tempt another into the same bargain, and his journeys across the globe.  2022’s Triade II: Hemera sees Melmoth fall in love on an island seemingly deserted except for a spooky ghost, who turns out to be a shipwrecked woman who grew up away from society, all while still unsuccessfully trying to tempt others into his same bargain.  On Nyx, Melmoth’s time on Earth is almost up, and things are looking grim.  His wife and child are both dead at the hands of the Inquisition, and without any takers on his deal, Melmoth resorts to suicide in his final hours.  Dark?  Yes, but the beauty with which Aara finish this story is what makes it feel so very real and poignant.

My favorite part of Aara’s music has always been how little it actually feels like black metal, despite the tremolo picking, shrieked vocals and blast beats.  It sounds so much more like classical music to me, and that is a facet that Aara have been shining a lot more light on since En Ergô Einai.  There are more choirs, more synths and more unique touches that show that Aara are scholars of more than philosophy and literature: they know music in a way that is deep and powerful and bordering on the masters of composition.  For proof, try listening to “Emphase der Seelenpein” and not *feel* something.  The ever building layers of hyper-melodic, almost lyrical guitars weave together like strings in a symphony, pulling a ton of the emotional weight and doing just as much to tell the story as Fluss’ wretched vocals.  That being said, there are also a lot of moments on Nyx that straight up *rock*.  The main riff for “Heimgesucht” that kicks the album off is way less emotionally poignant and way more horns-up and headbangs.  A lot of Aara’s guitar lines are built on the higher strings, but when Berg digs in on the bass notes, it works so well you almost forget that you’re listening to 18th century European literature.  Similarly, Fluss’ signature howl might not land well with everyone on its own, but it is an integral part of what makes Aara work, and without it these songs would be less for the weight and emotion she brings to the table.  Everything works so well in terms of the storytelling that Nyx and the other parts of the Triade are incredibly easy to get lost in.  To be able to listen to them all in a row is a true joy that I am so glad I finally get to experience.

Aara are a band that is so very special.  There is something quite indescribable about their music, which is not great for someone who gets their jollies from trying to describe music.  It’s…elevated and just on the border of pretentious while still being able to be appreciated for its inherent beauty and gravitas.  Nyx may bring Melmoth’s story to a close, but the legend of Aara is just beginning and I hope that whatever comes next from them goes even bigger and bolder.  This is not a band short on grand ideas, that much is certain.

— Ian

Triade III: Nyx will be available March 31 on Debemur Morti Productions.  For more information on Aara, visit their Facebook page.

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