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Aurora Borealis – Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything

cover-aurora06“Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything” heralded the second era of Aurora Borealis with the addition of new skinsman Mark Green, and the return of bass guitarist Jason Ian-Vaugh Eckert. What sets the second era of the band apart from the first, is the focus on sciencefiction as a recurring lyrical thematic. “Timeline” largely carries over the more pronounced death metal sound of “Relinquish” but combines it with sparse sound effects and the band’s patented elegant melodic sensibility. Self-produced, and independently released the album was widely praised, and much of the metal press (that had collectively ignored the band for the majority of its career up to that point) was now throwing superlatives at it. Aurora Borealis suddenly experienced a surge in popularity and name recognition.

Over the preceding few records Aurora Borealis had been hinting at a more abrasive death metal direction. “Timeline” cements what “Relinquish” foreshadowed years prior. Without losing its flair for European melodicism and structure Aurora Borealis’ second era is one that puts a larger emphasis on its death metal components, one that is characterized by increased levels of density and percussive propulsion. As celestial themes have been a recurrent theme through out Aurora Borealis’ lyrics, it isn’t much of a leap to see them into venture space – and sciencefiction themes as the main ingredient for its second era. “Timeline” is the debut of new drummer Mark Green, and the band’s first outing since “Praise the Archaic Lights Embrace” to feature bass guitarist Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert. On top of that it is a highly ambitious concept album about the creation of the universe, mankind’s place within it and the exploration and colonization of space. This in no small part due to the fact that Vento’s father was a celebrated NASA scientist.

‘Crucible Of Creation’ is about the Big Bang. ‘Stygian Depths’ chronicles astral phenomena such as wormholes and event horizon. ‘A Creature Called Human (Among Other Things)’ is about creation of life on Earth, and hints at the possibility of life on various other planets across the galaxy. ‘The Evolution After Evolution’ details man’s constant scientific progress and understanding, which eventually births the space race. ‘The Only Space Race That Matters’ is about mankind’s self-destructive nature, and the futility of human life in a massive, uncaring galaxy. ‘Beyond the Oort Cloud’ is about the Oort Cloud, an immense spherical cloud surrounding the planetary system and extending approximately 3 light years, about 30 trillion kilometers from the Sun. ‘Tearing Holes In the Fabric Of Time’ suggests what could happen if the String Theory proved correct, and mankind’s genome and building blocks are planted on other habitable, and colonized planets to ensure survival of the species by alien creators. ‘The Rebirth’ details the cyclical nature of all lifeforms, and whether human life on Earth was just a coincidental happening, or an experiment by other, superior lifeforms.

For the first time an album is opened with an intro. ‘Our Legacy’ is a robot transmission of sorts that formidably sets up the mood, and concept behind the recording. ‘Stygian Depths’ is more black metal oriented in its chord progressions and riff set. ‘A Creature Called Human (Among Other Things)’ in construction, especially in its choice of riffs and drumming, recalls the Derek Roddy era of the band. The track is custodian to one of the best solos of the modern Aurora Borealis era that Vento has yet penned. ‘The Evolution After Evolution’ is vintage Aurora Borealis, and a song that works well enough on its own – but in combination with ‘The Only Space Race That Matters’ its effect is amplified. The sorrowful (but somehow triumphant) melodies through out ‘Tearing Holes In the Fabric Of Time’ wouldn’t have felt out of place on an No Fashion Records death/black metal album of yore. Likewise is the track’s midway transition into doom territory only natural given the choice of main melody. ‘Interlude to Cessation’ functions similarly to the aforementioned intro, as it is merely a moodsetting piece to set up closing track ‘The Rebirth’. That track, much like the album in its entirety, sounds as a combination of the elegant melodicism and epic song construction of the Derek Roddy era with the percussive propulsion and density of “Time, Unveiled” and more recently, “Relinquish”.

Like the preceding two albums much of its heaviness comes from the absolutely relentless drumming of newcomer Green. Sprinkled through out the record are vocal – and guitar effects that effectively add to the alien, and otherworldly atmosphere. The performances of Ron Vento (vocals, lead/rhythm guitars) and drummer Mark Green are stellar across the board. The bass lines by Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert are far more traditional, and not nearly as acrobatic as those of the main performers. Obviously this was a missed chance as “Timeline” houses plenty of moments where more funky and adventurous bass licks would have added a layer of intricacy to what obviously are expertly composed songs. Vento’s vocals possess a hitherto unheard level of clarity and are incredibly well enunciated to emphasize the clever lyrics, and the heady concept of the album. At this juncture evident comparisons could be made to Theory In Practice side-project Mutant, and its lone album “The Aeonic Majesty” as both share more than a few stylistic commonalities. Of the two only this band remains active to this very day.

“Timeline” was recorded at Nightsky Studios in Waldorf, Maryland with Ron Vento producing. On all fronts it is the smoothest sounding Aurora Borealis release without sounding overly digital, or losing any of its bass-heaviness. Unlike a lot of contemporary productions the thundering bass guitar lies prominently in the mix. As with past releases the combination of sweeping arrangements, percussive death metal and Vento’s patented rasps “Timeline” heralds a new era for the band. While much heavier and faster overall Aurora Borealis retains its European sense for melodicism and structure while integrating it into a traditional but contemporary American death metal format. The artwork by Ron Miller fits flawlessly with the work of long-time designer Jay Marsh, but exudes a sense of modernity that its past records hadn’t. By all intents and purposes “Timeline” is the most conceptually complete Aurora Borealis effort of the second era.