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“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 direction 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.

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“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.