Skip to content

There’s little in the way of contesting that Waldorf, Maryland death/black metal formation Aurora Borealis has been experiencing an upward career trajectory ever since “Time, Unveiled” in 2002. While more melodically inclined in their earlier years 2006’s “Relinquish” heralded a far more aggressive approach to the sound the band had perfected in the years prior. The induction of Mark Green in 2011 was instrumental in taking Aurora Borealis to the next level and he is now the longest serving skinsman since his illustrious predecessors Tony Laureano (who went on to Angelcorpse and Nile) and Derek Roddy. “Apokalupsis” is the culmination of the evolution that commenced with “Relinquish”. By and large “Apokalupsis” is the most abrasive and all-out combative Aurora Borealis has sounded to date. Needless to say “Apokalupsis” fits seamlessly into Aurora Borealis’ contemporary repertoire.

It’s unbelievable enough that Aurora Borealis is the vision of just one man: producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist/lyricist Ron Vento. Assisting Vento are long-time contributors Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert on bass guitar and drummer Mark Green. Ian-Vaughn Eckert is a consummate professional that can weave flowing funky licks like Mike Poggione (Monstrosity), Jeroen Paul Thesseling or Chris Richards (ex-Suffocation) if given the place and time, but "Apokalupsis" is too singular in its objective to bludgeon to allow him said space. In an ideal world Mark Green would have been presented bigger opportunities at this point in his tenure with the band. For hitherto unexplained reasons this hasn’t occured yet and Aurora Borealis will continue to reap the benefits of his stellar talent until the inevitable bigger names come calling. Green has the makings of a new star in extreme metal drumming and undoubtedly he’s destined to follow in the footsteps of Laureano, Roddy, and Yeung who all went to become institutions in their own right.

Lyrically Aurora Borealis has always been putting many of their contemporaries to shame. Whereas their earlier work dealt with ancient history, mythology and the darker aspects of foreign cultures, “Apokalupsis” expands upon the science fiction concepts from “Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything” and its companion piece “Worldshapers”. It delves into the theory of Old Earth Creationism and is very much a retelling of the Bible from the perspective of alien entities. As God casted out all rebellious angels he assigned each to a specific star. Each of these stars is custodian to a demon and each demon is trying to break free from captivity to manipulate mankind into their greatest deception. Each demon disguises itself to reach mankind, be it in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve and the serpent or as aliens guiding great rulers (pharaohs, kings, presidents, et al) by their visitations on Earth at various points in recorded history and facilitating the creation of tribal god images and religions. Once these tools are in place they continue the deception to reach their ultimate objective, the Apocalypse or the End Times.

Aurora Borealis has chosen to go in the opposite direction of a band like Monstrosity. Whereas that band went for a more deliberately paced, highly stylized and more melodic iteration of their vintage Florida death metal sound; Aurora Borealis has adopted a more traditional, conventionally percussive direction. Virtually all of trio’s more atmospheric enhancements have been excised on “Apokalupsis”. That is not necessarily to their detriment as it cements that Aurora Borealis can just as easy compete with the likes of Malevolent Creation or Nile as with more progressive-minded outfits as, say, an Obscura or bands of similar persuasion. In fact “Apokalupsis” is probably Aurora Borealis’ least adventurous recording to date in that regard. There are perhaps more than a few shades of “Relinquish” to be found here and the more epic wanderings of “Praise the Archaic Lights Embrace “ and “Northern Lights” are conspicuously absent. The change is not exactly surprising since “Timeline: The Beginning and End of Everything” provided plenty of hints in that direction that “Worldshapers” went on to consolidate. Those hoping for another ‘Slave to the Grave’ will be left with their hunger but Vento and his Aurora Borealis never disappoint, and they don’t do here either.

“Apokalupsis” is thoroughly traditional. Moreso than any of Vento’s past ventures with his band and it's significant for exactly that reason. This is the best record that Malevolent Creation never released. It easily surpasses Nile’s “Annihilation Of the Wicked” in sheer brute force and makes Morbid Angel’s recent return-to-form sound rather limp and flaccid in comparison. Personally we are more inclined towards Aurora Borealis’ more epic offerings but there’s no contesting that “Apokalupsis” does exactly what it promises. This is by far the Maryland trio’s most apocalyptic opus to date and befitting of the time and title it absolutely refuses to take any prisoners or do any concessions. Dying Fetus might be Maryland’s most popular export but Aurora Borealis have proven to be an underground royalty in their own right. For 28 years and counting Aurora Borealis has proven to be the most underrated US death metal band. Few bands can match Vento’s consistency, work ethic and instrumental proficiency. It remains a question for the ages why his Nightsky Studio facility isn’t more popular with bigger and smaller metal bands alike. Even at their least adventurous Aurora Borealis is leagues better than whatever is popular in the underground right now. It’s about time people start paying some attention to Aurora Borealis lest they be ravaged...

cover-aurora07“Worldshapers”, the seventh Aurora Borealis album, is a culmination of the more death metal oriented approach they have been hinting at since “Relinquish”. Stylistically it is similar to its predecessor “Timeline”, both in concept and in design. Being more of a side-story than a direct continuation of the “Timeline” narrative, “World Shapers” is the most versatile and complete Aurora Borealis album to date. While other bands might be considered more readily marketable Aurora Borealis has a level of consistency and quality that few can match, or surpass. “Worldshapers” is another worthwhile addition to the canon of a band that has never delivered a subpar product since forming.

The record derives its strength from its internal and external consistency. Bolstering the masterful songwriting of creative force Ron Vento is the stability within the ranks. Mark Green (drums) and Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert (bass guitar) man their known positions, and each player is at the top of his game. The evolution that was initiated with “Relinquish” continues as Aurora Borealis explores the death metal end of the spectrum within its death/black metal framework. Thematically “Worldshapers” delves deeper into the “Timeline” concept, but it is a side-story rather than a direct continuation. As in the past releases the lyrics are incredibly well written and thoroughly researched. The atmospheric enhancement through the usage of well-placed studio effects introduced on “Timeline” is further expanded upon and better integrated into the each of the songs.

420_photo‘In the Beginning’ functions similarly as ‘Our Legacy’ on the preceding “Timeline”. “Worldshapers” features the fastest, and most technical drumming yet on an Aurora Borealis record, but each of these relentless tracks is based around wonderful arrangements, dynamic tempo changes and crunchy midtempo sections with flowing bass licks, and a multiple sparkling solos. Opener ‘God Like Redemption’ displays Vento’s further mastery of his chosen style. Despite its leaning towards death metal Vento’s serpentine rasps are at his most hissing. The guitar riffing, and chord progressions are more typically death metal - technical without being excessive, and violent without being overbearing - but weaved through out Vento’s signature melodies. ‘The Oldest Of Dilemmas’ and ‘Watchers From Above’ offer up a number of excellent solos, this is especially the case with the latter track. ‘This Is the Way They Choose to Die’ has the best bass licks on the record, with Jason Ian-Vaughn Eckert confidently breaking away from solely doubling the guitars, and writing some truly funky lines that complement the riffs, and chords. ‘And to the stars Returned’ is the most melodic, and diverse, the trio has ever sounded without doing concessions to its overall heaviness.

“Worldshapers” isn’t a direct continuation of the “Timeline” concept in the traditional sense, but a side-story set within the same conceptual framework. Thus “Worldshapers” chronicles a self-contained plot about the colonization of other habitable planets across the multiverse by alien lifeforms after mankind’s end on Earth. The first half concerns itself with abductions and experimentation on human subjects as a way of obtaining mankind's genetic blueprint. The second half of the album is decidedly more philosophically inclined, such as the pondering on the essence of human existence in ‘The Oldest Of Dilemmas’, mankind’s nature to destroy itself (‘Watchers From Above’, ‘This is the Way They Choose to Die’), ‘A Subtle Way to Eradicate Them’ poses that man’s god images come from superior extraterrestrial lifeforms, and their obfuscation of their origins and true objectives. ‘Silent War’ details said extraterrestrial lifeforms experiments through the ages and through the multiverse. Concludingly ‘And to the Stars Returned’ describes the inevitable and inexorable passage of time that even other lifeforms are not immune to, and that our enslavers must eventually answer to higher beings of their own.

There’s a wonderful sense of cohesion, conceptually and musically, to Aurora Borealis’ second era. While “Worldshapers” ramps up the speed once again it never loses sight of its melodic sensibilities. No other band combined death – and black metal as fluently as Aurora Borealis did over the course of its discography. Arguably Florida bruisers Order Of Ennead took a page or two from what Aurora Borealis carved out. “Worldshapers” is a refinement of what “Timeline” did prior, and the fact that both records are structured similarly is advantageous for the flow of each of the songs. Each member delivers an exemplary performance on the record, and surely Mark Green will follow in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors Tony Laureano, Derek Roddy, and Tim Yeung. Years of toiling away in the underground have finally paid off as now more than ever Aurora Borealis is getting the accolades and critical praise they deserved many years ago.

As per usual “Worldshapers” was recorded at Nightsky Studios in Waldorf, Maryland with Ron Vento producing. “Timeline” introduced a previously unheard level of smoothness, sheen and crispness without sounding overly digital. “Worldshapers” uses the same template but enhances the production with more depth, texture and range. Unlike a lot of contemporary productions the bass guitar can actually be heard. Once again Vento commissioned artwork by Mike Hrubovcak (Divine Rapture, Monstrosity, Vile). For the first time since “Time, Unveiled” Aurora Borealis worked with a label again. “World Shapers” was released through Xtreem Music, the label from Avulsed frontman David Sánchez González (Dave Rotten), to lauding reviews the world over. In partnership with its Spanish label Aurora Borealis now reached a wider audience than ever before, and the accolades bestowed upon the trio brought a renewed interest in its catalog of earlier albums.